• In 1952, in Oslo, the very first New Zealanders competed at an Olympic Winter Games. In the words of athlete Sir Roy McKenzie (OLY#62) the team was ‘given black sweaters and had silver fern patches to sew on…”


  • Dame Yvette Williams (OLY#76) became New Zealand’s first female Olympic gold medallist when she won the long jump gold medal at Helsinki in 1952.
  • New Zealand won three medals at the 1952 Olympic Games, by Dame Yvette Williams (OLY#76) gold in long jump, swimmer Jean Stewart (OLY#74) bronze in 100m backstroke and John (“Dutch”) Holland (OLY#55) in 440 yard hurdles. It was the first Olympic Games at which the New Zealand Team, wearing the silver fern, had won more than one medal.

Jean (Stewart) Hurring returning with her Bronze medal win in the women's 100m Backstroke event at the Games of the XV Olympiad, Helsinki 1952. Photo: Private Collection.

  • The 1952 New Zealand team was the first to fly to the Olympic Games. Though it was certainly preferable to a six-week voyage by ship, the gruelling air trip took several days and involved stopovers at Sydney, Darwin, Singapore, Calcutta and Rome before the team arrived in London, where they spent some time training.
  • The first time the New Zealand national anthem was played during an Olympic medal ceremony was for long jumper Dame Yvette Williams (OLY#76) in 1952. The Helsinki organisers played both God Save the Queen and God Defend New Zealand. The New Zealand national anthem was not used again until the rowing eight won the gold at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

Sailors Jack Cropp (left) and Peter Mander at the Games of the XVI Olympiad, Melbourne 1956. Photo: New Zealand Olympic Museum Collection.

  • In 1956, New Zealand competed in Olympic hockey for the first time, probably because the games were hosted by nearby Melbourne, the first times the Games had been held in the southern hemisphere.
  • Jack Cropp (OLY#80) and Peter Mander (OLY#107) won the Sharpie class sailing gold medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. This was the first time Olympic Games at which New Zealand competed at sailing.
  • Race walker Norman Read (OLY#111) moved from the UK to New Zealand in 1953. Three years later he won the gold medal in the Melbourne Olympic Games 50km walk. At the post-race press conference, he was asked by a British journalist: “Listen mate, are you a Pom or a Kiwi?” Read shot back: “I’m a Pommy Kiwi and proud of it.”

Norman Read leads the field during the 50km Walk final finishing with a 400 yard lead, taking the Gold medal at the Games of the XVI Olympiad, Melbourne 1956. Photo: Getty Images.