It might be the ultimate cliché, but the
bespectacled John Hunter was regarded as one of the deepest thinkers among the
great rowers of the early 1970s. The bearded Hunter wore a studious look and
thought deeply about his sport.
Hunter, rowing at No 5 in the eight-oar boat, won an Olympic gold medal in 1972, having suffered the shattering disappointment of finishing fourth in the eights final in 1968.
He was also in eights crews that claimed the North American title at St Catharines, Canada, in 1967, and the European title at Copenhagen in 1971 and finished third at the world championships at St Catharines in 1970.
Amid his plethora of international successes, the 1972 Olympic gold stands out.
The New Zealanders were among the favourites at Munich 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, Wybo Weldman, Dick Joyce, 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.
Hunter won national titles in the eights with the Wellington club in 1967 and 69 and in the coxed four in 1972.
An engineer, Hunter worked for the Ministry of Works for many years and was heavily involved in the extension to Christchurch airport. He became a private consultant based in Ohaka, north of Christchurch. He and his Scottish wife Liz have two children. One, Alison, became a good rower.
Hunter managed New Zealand rowing teams overseas in the 1990s, including to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
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.