1940’s PRE-GAMES TRAINING TAKES PLACE ON A SHIP AND WAR DISRUPTS THE GAMES
The small New Zealand team to the 1948 Olympic Games was the first in 28 years not to win a medal. It did, however, produce two future champions. John (Dutch) Holland (OLY#55), the 400m hurdles athlete, returned to the Olympic Games four years later in Helsinki and won a bronze medal. And team captain Harold Nelson (OLY#57) became one of the heroes of the 1950 Auckland Empire Games when he won the prestigious six-mile event on the opening afternoon of competition.
Olympian weightlifter Maurice “Pom” Crow (OLY#52) was among those to represent New Zealand at the London Olympic Games. The fern to him was a symbol of success, of achievement and of reverence. “The Silver Fern? No, never in my lifetime thought I would wear it,” he later said.
The London Olympic Team was the last New Zealand Team to make the demanding six-week trip to the other side of the world by ship. Middle-distance runner Doug Harris (OLY#54) was already in England, but his six team-mates tried to overcome horrendous odds to keep fit while at sea. Backstroke swimmer Ngaire Lane (now Galloway) (OLY#56) was given use of the ship “pool”, but all she could do was dunk herself in it – it was only three metres long. Hurdler Dutch Holland (OLY#55) took one hurdle with him, but found it nearly impossible to jump it with the ship rolling across the ocean. Boxer Bob Goslin (OLY#53) sparred against road cyclist Nick Carter (OLY#51), hardly ideal training for either. Weightlifter Maurice Crow (OLY#52) could not practise because he could not stand steadily, and distance runner Harold Nelson ran around and around the decks, a poor substitute for proper conditions.
Though they found it nearly impossible to train while sailing across the world to England, the seven New Zealanders heading to the 1948 Olympic Games did take the time to learn the haka. Harold Nelson (OLY#57), Dutch Holland (OLY#55), Ngaire Lane (OLY#56), Maurice Crow (OLY#52), Bob Goslin (OLY#53) and Nick Carter (OLY#51) practised most days and always drew an appreciative crowd on board the Port Hobart.
A whole generation of New Zealand’s best sportsmen and women missed out on the chance to compete at the Olympic Games when the 1940 and 1944 Games were cancelled because of World War II. The 1940 Olympic Games were to have been held in Tokyo. After Japan invaded China they were reassigned to Helsinki. When the Soviet Union invaded Finland they were cancelled. The 1944 Olympic Games were scheduled for London, before they were eventually cancelled. The Olympic Games resumed in London in 1948, and New Zealand entered a team of seven.
In this decade three New Zealand Olympians lives were lost to the fighting during World War II. Los Angeles 1932 rower George Cooke (OLY#25), London 1980 Henry Murray (OLY#2) and David Lindsay (OLY#18) Swimming, Amsterdam 1908.