• The first time a team competed at the Olympic Games as the New Zealand Team, wearing the silver fern was at Antwerp in 1920. We became “The New Zealand Team”.
  • The athletes travelled a gruelling nine weeks by boat to get there…

The NZ team on board Euripides leaving Sydney en route to Belgium to compete at the Games of the VII Olympiad, Antwerp 1920. From left: Darcy Hadfield, Violet (Walrond) Robb, Cecil Walrond, George Davidson, Harry Wilson. Photo: Private Collection.

  • Prior to that, we had competed at London 1908 and at Paris 1912 as part of an Australasian Team.
  • Hurdler Harry Wilson (OLY#10) was the first New Zealand Olympic Team captain and carried the flag into the Antwerp stadium in 1920.
  • This was the first opening ceremony at which the Olympic flag flew and the first at which the Olympic oath was recited.
  • Swimmer Violet Walrond (OLY#9) was the first New Zealand woman to compete at the Olympic Games. As teenage girl, she had to be chaperoned by her father, stay in her room while her teammates were training, and she wasn’t even allowed to attend the all-male team function on her return.

Violet (Walrond) Robb, swimmer at the Games of the VII Olympiad, Antwerp 1920. Photo: Private Collection.    Rowing Single Sculler Darcy Hadfield rowing for the N.Z. Expeditionary Forces in 1918 later would go on to win Bronze at the Games of the VII Olympiad, Antwerp 1920. Photo: Private Collection.

  • Darcy Hadfield (OLY#8) was the first New Zealander to be presented with an Olympic Medal wearing the silver fern at the 1920 Antwerp games. He won a bronze in the single sculls rowing.  A WWI veteran, he had returned to the European theatre of war just two years after Armistice was declared. This time it was for a very different kind of ‘battle’.
  • The four-strong 1920 New Zealand team achieved one feat no subsequent team has managed. Every one of them qualified for a final – athletes Harry Wilson (OLY#10) in the 110m hurdles and George Davidson (OLY#7) in the 200m, rower Darcy Hadfield (OLY#8)in the single sculls and swimmer Violet Walrond (OLY#9) in the 100m and 300m freestyle.
  • Arthur Porritt (OLY#12) became the New Zealand Team’s first athletics Olympic Games medallist when he won a bronze medal in the 100m at Paris in 1924, an event later made famous by the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.
  • New Zealand’s team for the 1924 Paris Olympic Games was small – just athlete Arthur Porritt (OLY#12), boxer Charlie Purdy (OLY#13) and swimmers Clarrie Heard (OLY#11) and Gwitha Shand (OLY#14). They were at least able to enjoy the first Olympic village, a new concept in 1924.
  • In 1927, the then Olympic Council of New Zealand determined that ‘the colours of the association shall be black and silver with a fern leaf’.
  • Ted Morgan (OLY#21) became the New Zealand Team’s first Olympic gold medallist when he won the welterweight boxing competition at Amsterdam in 1928.

Welterweight Gold Medalist Ted Morgan at the IX Olympiad, Amsterdam 1928. Photo source: Private Collection.

  • Arthur Porritt (OLY#12) was injured and could not compete, but was the New Zealand team captain in 1928, as he had been in 1924.
  • Olympic athletics was opened to women in 1928 and sprinter Norma Wilson (OLY#23) became the first female New Zealand athlete to compete on the track at the Olympic Games.
  • David Lindsay (OLY#18) competed in Swimming in Amsterdam but was killed by gunfire during WWII fighting in Italy aged 37 years on 12th December 1943
  • Several husband-and-wife combinations have competed for New Zealand at Olympic Games. One notable early pairing was 1928 Olympians boxer Ted Morgan (OLY#21) and sprinter Norma Williams (OLY#23), who married in 1933. Later swimmers Lincoln Hurring (OLY#67) and Jean Stewart (OLY#74), who each competed in the 1952 and 1956 Olympic Games, married in 1957. One of the Hurrings’ children, Gary (OLY#450), became a champion backstroker, like his parents, and went on to win Commonwealth Games gold, world championship silver and to appear in two Olympic finals.

Swimming team photo for the Games of the XVI Olympiad, Melbourne 1956. Back row: L. Hurring, A.J. Donaldson (Olympic Official). Front row: J. Hurring, W. Ashby, P. Gower, M. Beck. Photo: New Zealand Olympic Museum Collection.