Gary Anderson’s place in the history of New Zealand cycling is undeniable – he was the first New Zealand cyclist to win an Olympic medal. (Bruce Biddle missed a medal on a technicality after finishing third in the road race at the 1972 Munich Olympics).
Anderson claimed the bronze medal in the 4000m individual pursuit at Barcelona in 1992.
Amazingly Anderson, who even besides his Olympic triumph enjoyed a stellar career, rode while suffering from a heart defect. His heart was prone to race when placed under stress. On the surface, therefore, being an international cyclist did not seem the most suitable of pursuits, but Anderson seemed to manage just fine.
He was born in England and his family moved to New Zealand when he was just nine. He was inspired to take up cycling by his father and coach Noel, himself a national champion.
But it was when Anderson was 16 and linked with Wanganui coach Ron Cheatley that he really began to capture headlines.
As an 18-year-old at the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, Anderson pedalled to two silver and two bronze medals. This was merely an appetiser for what was to follow. The next year he moved up a step by placing sixth in the individual pursuit at the world champs in Austria and at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games he was seventh in the same event.
Anderson was sensational at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games, winning three gold medals – in the individual pursuit, 10-mile scratch race and team pursuit. He added a silver in the kilometre time trial and was given the honour of carrying the New Zealand flag at the closing ceremony. Anderson won the Lonsdale Cup for his efforts in Auckland.
At Barcelona in 1992, Anderson finished third in the 4000m individual pursuit in 4min 31.061s, which would have won the gold medal in Seoul four years earlier. The gold medal went to brilliant Briton Chris Boardman, riding a revolutionary aerodynamic bike of space-age design.
After that bronze medal (and an under-rated seventh as part of the teams pursuit), the Wanganui rider turned to the road and enjoyed considerable success on the North American circuit. However, he was not able to translate his ability into medals on the road at the 1994 Victoria Commonwealth Games and for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games reverted to the individual pursuit, where he finished a disappointing 13th out of a field of 18.
He looked to be in sharp form before the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games, but a near-fatal crash while racing in the United States put him out of cycling for many months. Instead he worked as a commentator at Kuala Lumpur.
Anderson made his Olympic Games farewell at Sydney in 2000, riding the individual pursuit where he recorded the 14th fastest time, and finished 6th in the team pursuit.
He moved straight into coaching and managing and took a team to the 2001 World Junior Championships in Pennsylvania.
Anderson, who lives in Wanganui, was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.