Trevor Coker had a tragically short life. He was only 32 when he died of a brain tumour in 1981. But in that short time Coker established himself as one of the best rowers produced by New Zealand.
He won an Olympic gold medal in 1972 with the mighty New Zealand eight, and a bronze medal in the same event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. In addition, he was part of the eight that won the European title at Copenhagen in 1971, and world championship bronze medals in the eight at Lucerne in 1974 and Nottingham in 1975.
The big one, of course, was the Olympic gold medal. The New Zealanders were among the favourites at Munich and duly delivered. Coach Rusty Robertson prepared them well, and they responded by outclassing a quality field to win by nearly three seconds, from the Americans and East Germans.
This was an important victory for the “amateur” New Zealanders over the “professional” northern hemisphere crews, and, significantly, the medals were presented by IOC chief Avery Brundage.
New Zealand’s rowing stocks were never higher than that emotional day at Feldmoching when the eight – Tony Hurt, Wybo Weldman, Dick Joyce, John Hunter, Lindsay Wilson, Athol Earl, Coker, Gary Robertson and cox Simon Dickie – stood on the dais, gold medals around their necks, listening to God Defend New Zealand while they shed tears of joy.
Rowing for Avon, the blond-haired Coker won a national eights title in 1976 and fours titles in 1974, 75 and 76.
Coker was a teacher. He was married to Sue and they had one boy. When the exceedingly popular Coker fell ill and was forced on to a sickness benefit, his former rowing mates stayed in close contact, chipping in every now and then to help with his finances.
The 1972 Olympic rowing eight was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990, and the eight won the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year crown in 1971 and 1972.