New Zealand’s first female Olympic gold medallist has inspired a new scholarship designed to support young athletes displaying both exceptional talent and need.
The Yvette Williams Olympic Scholarship has been established with funding from a $500,000 donation from the Glenn Family Foundation and was inspired by Williams herself.
The scholarship was launched this evening by Kereyn Smith, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, who said Williams’ legacy will live on.
“Over the sixty years since this outstanding athlete leapt into New Zealand’s history books, Williams has tirelessly supported and promoted young athletes,” she said. “Yvette has been the inspiration for a generation of female gold medal winning Olympians.”
Sir Owen Glenn, founder of the Glenn Family Foundation said Williams inspired him to establish the fund two years ago at a dinner celebrating the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s centenary.
“I was truly inspired sitting next to Yvette; she’s a remarkable woman and a great New Zealander. I wanted to do something to acknowledge what she has done for this country through her sporting achievements,” said Sir Owen. “For me financially supporting future generations of athletes, to excel at the elite level of their chosen sport, is such a fitting tribute to Yvette’s achievements forever.”
Williams said she was delighted to have the scholarship named after her. “Sport has been one of the most important parts of my life and one of my greatest joys. It is a great honour to have this scholarship established in my name.”
The fund will be administered by the New Zealand Olympic Committee. One Yvette Williams Olympic Scholarship will be awarded annually from 2014.
The scholarship was announced at the 2013 Prime Minister’s Olympic Gala Dinner, an annual Olympic fund-raising event.
About Yvette Williams (married name - Corlett)
An Olympic gold medal, four Empire Games gold medals and a world record make Yvette Williams one of New Zealand’s most accomplished athletes.
Williams grew up in Dunedin and is recalled for her dramatic Long Jump Gold Medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and for her world record in Gisborne 1954.
She was a versatile athlete who won Empire Games Gold Medals in the Long Jump, Shot Put and Discus, and a Silver Medal in the Javelin. Adding to that tally she won 21 national titles spread over five disciplines. Not only was she blessed at athletics but was an all-round sporting dynamo, playing representative Netball, and Basketball for New Zealand, as well as participating in Gymnastics, Equestrian, Swimming and Tennis.
Williams, although blessed with natural ability, represents an athlete who built a legacy based on hard work and sheer determination.
She trained using concrete blocks and sandbags for weights every morning before she went to work. At lunchtime she ran in army boots in the Domain - the theory being that when she didn’t have these boots on she felt like she was flying.
After work she would focus on technique - jumping and throwing for hours and in the weekend, she took to the beach, running and jumping from the sand-dunes.
Following her gold medal triumph, Yvette returned from Helsinki a national hero and was rewarded with a grand public reception.
Williams retired before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics but remained involved in sport, helping form the Pakuranga Athletic Club in 1967, and working as a physical education teacher.
Williams was Sportsman of the Year twice, in 1950 and 1952, and was voted Athlete of the Decade for the 1950s. She was awarded an MBE in 1953, a CNZM in 2011 and was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and was voted Otago Sportsperson of the Century in 2000.
About the New Zealand Olympic Committee
The New Zealand Olympic Committee represents both the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Movements in New Zealand.
The organisation’s aim is to inspire excellence and pride in New Zealanders and enable New Zealand’s elite athletes to achieve on the world’s stage.
Games Time performance planning, operations and leadership are the primary focus of the New Zealand Olympic Committee. The organisation also leads and advocates for sport and athletes and uses its strong international connections to deliver value to New Zealand.
The organisation also delivers school and education programmes and connects young New Zealanders with Olympic Ambassadors and the significant Olympic and Commonwealth digital museum collection.
Together with our sports and athletes the New Zealand Olympic Committee inspires New Zealanders and makes them proud.