Biography

Wybo Veldman
Born 1946

Wybo Veldman has been one of the giant figures of New Zealand rowing.

He was a member of the New Zealand eight that missed out on an Olympic medal in shattering circumstances at Mexico City in 1968, but made no mistake next time.

Rowing in the No 7 seat, he was an experienced member of the 1972 Olympic champion eight.

The New Zealanders were among the favourites at the 1972 Munich games 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, Weldman, Dick Joyce, John Hunter, Lindsay Wilson, Athol Earl, Trevor 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.

Veldman had been in New Zealand eights crews that claimed the North American title at St Catharines, Canada in 1967 and the European title in Copenhagen in 1971. In 1970 he picked up a bronze medal in the eights at the world championships at St Catharines.

At the 1973 European championships at Moscow, Veldman and Noel Mills took a silver medal in the coxless pairs.

At national level, the Whakatane rower established a formidable record and for many years held the record for having won more Red Coats (or national titles) – 21 - than anyone else. He was in eights teams that won national titles in 1970, 71, 74 and 75 and he won fours titles in 1970, 71 and 73. But most impressively, Veldman won the national coxless pairs title for eight straight years, from 1968-75, the first five with Warren Cole, the last three with Noel Mills. He also won five coxed pairs titles. He was also a classy single sculler and won a national title in 1976.

Veldman, born in Indonesia of Dutch parents, spent his early years in Holland.

His life in New Zealand (the family moved to this country in 1956) has been a varied one. He took up rowing only after a freak accident forced him out of his first sporting love, showjumping, when he was 16.

Veldman was involved for a time in an engineering supply business, then switched to run a farm of mainly sheep near Raetihi.

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.