1908 AND 1912: WE BEGIN OUR OLYMPIC HISTORY AS “AUSTRALASIA”
At the London 1908 and Amsterdam 1912 Olympic Games New Zealand athletes march under an Australasian flag.
July 14, 1908 becomes one of the most historic days in New Zealand sports history. That was the day Harry Kerr (OLY#1), representing Australasia, finished third in the 3500m track walking event at the London Olympic Games. The tall Kerr, while not competing for “The New Zealand Team” thus became the first New Zealander to win an Olympic medal.
Albert Rowland (OLY#3) competed in Athletics, (walking) at the Games of the IV Olympiad, London 1908 and went on to die from wounds sustained during the fighting in France aged 32 years on 23rd July 191
Henry Murray (OLY#2) Lieutenant (WW1) & Flying Officer (WW2) competed in Athletics (hurdles) in London 1908, representing Australasia. He died 10th April 1943 in a motor vehicle accident whilst in the Royal New Zealand Airforce in Onerahi aged 57 years.
Was a New Zealand sportsman ever more appropriately named? Malcolm Champion (OLY#4) became the first New Zealander to win an Olympic gold medal when he was part of the outstanding Australasian 4 x 200m relay team at Stockholm in 1912. Champion was born on Norfolk Island in 1883. His father was a sea captain and his mother a descendant of Bounty mutineer Matthew Quintal. The family moved to Auckland in 1894.
Normally winning an Olympic medal, as New Zealand tennis player Anthony Wilding (OLY#6) did at Stockholm in 1912, would be a career highlight. However, Wilding, with four Wimbledon singles titles and four more in doubles, plus five Davis Cup crowns, had many claims to fame. His bronze medal in Stockholm when part of the Australasian team, was just another highlight in a glittering career. Wilding was killed just three years after the Olympic Games from injuries sustained from a German shell (reported to have died instantly) in France aged 31 years on 9th May 1915.
Cantabrian Henry Murray was given a rare honour when he arrived in Stockholm for the 1912 Olympic Games. Murray, who was entered in the 110m and 400m hurdles, was named captain of the Australasian team and carried the flag during the opening ceremony.