John Christensen followed the royal hockey line, from Christchurch Boys’ High School, into the University club team, then Canterbury and New Zealand.
Christensen, an inside right, played in three Olympics, capping his career with the gold medal in Montreal in 1976.
He was only 20 when he attended the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, in which New Zealand finished seventh. At Munich in 1972 he was one of the experienced members of the side, and was disappointed with New Zealand’s ninth placing.
By 1976, there was a vast reservoir of experience in the New Zealand team. Several players were Christensen’s team-mates in the University club, where they had been well-tutored by one of New Zealand hockey’s best coaches, Cyril Walter. Of the team that went to Montreal, Paul Ackerley, Thur Borren, Christensen and Tony Ineson, plus the Maister brothers, Barry and Selwyn, played for University.
Besides the core of Christchurch players, others in the team with previous Olympic experience were Alan McIntyre, Trevor Manning, Greg Dayman, Ramesh Patel, Jeff Archibald and Arthur Parkin.
The New Zealanders caused a shock at Montreal by beating Australia 1-0 to win the gold medal. It was not a triumph easily achieved - they won a thrilling play-off match against Spain 1-0 just to squeeze into the semi-finals. There they caused an upset by beating the impressive Netherlands side 2-1 in the third period of extra time.
The final, a torrid affair, tipped New Zealand’s way when their captain, Ineson, smashed home a penalty corner shortly after halftime.
Christensen coached Redcliffs senior team and then the Canterbury men’s representative team for many years and later became a national selector. He attended the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games as an assistant coach of the New Zealand men’s team.
After earning an engineering degree he worked for the Heathcote Council for many years and then for the Selwyn Council.
The 1976 Olympic hockey team was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.