The New Zealand Olympic Committee has awarded upcoming pole vaulter Nick Southgate the Yvette Williams Scholarship for 2017.

In honour of New Zealand’s first female Olympic Gold medallist, the award is presented each year to an athlete that demonstrates the hard work and determination required to to excel in their chosen sporting field. In Yvette’s honour, selected athletes have the opportunity to be supported in their quest to win a medal at the Commonwealth or Olympic Games.

22-year-old Nick, who is trained by Olympic bronze Medalist Eliza McCartney’s coach Jeremy McColl, has won the national Men’s Pole Vault title four times. He qualified for the final of the Men’s pole vault at the 2015 World University Games in Gwanju, however could not compete in the final due to a calf strain.

Throughout 2016 Nick has progressively raised the bar and today his PB of 5.47 sits just 4cm shy of the New Zealand record set by Olympian Paul Gibbons in the 1990s. This impressive result was set in early 2016 at the Australian Championships and was good enough to place him second behind Australian Kurtis Marschall who placed 10th at the Rio Olympic Games.

Nick is now targeting 5.70m by 2020 which, based on previous results, could be enough to see him in finals contention for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

As a senior member of the North Harbour Athletics Club, Nick can often be seen coaching young athletes and giving back to the track and field community.

Nick feels honored to be the recipient of the Yvette Williams Scholarship for 2017.

“It gives me great confidence that our Olympic sporting body believes in my potential as an athlete and progress to date, he said.

“This scholarship will provide me with the opportunity to find high quality competition around the world which will open doors and help me to gain invaluable experience.”

The Scholarship fund was created by the generosity of an initial donation of $500,000 by Sir Owen Glenn through the Glenn Family Foundation. The parameters for awarding the scholarship have been endorsed by the New Zealand Olympic Committee Board on recommendation from the Sport Funding Committee. Nick will receive $23,000 over the next 16 months.

About the Scholarship

The Scholarship is awarded to an athlete (who may participate at the Games in an individual event, or as part of a team) or athletes (in a pair, crew or double) and may be used to fund equipment or ongoing training, competition and games preparation costs. Funding may be applied for on an annual or multi-year basis (at the discretion of the NZOC) leading into the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games or the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The over-riding criteria is that the Scholarship will assist the athlete or athletes to win a medal or be successful at the upcoming Commonwealth or Olympic Games; with the emphasis on the prospect of winning a medal.

In 2015 and 2016, the Yvette Williams Scholarship was awarded to Gemma Jones and Jason Saunders, the Nacra 17 pair who came 4th place in their first Olympic Games at Rio 2016. Jason and Gemma said of the scholarship:

“Leading up to Rio, Gemma and I were in need of purchasing some new gear for our boat for the next stage of our testing program. For us, receiving the Yvette Williams scholarship was a big deal because we could buy the sails and equipment we needed and managed to select the best equipment for the Olympic Games. This is very important in our boat as there are big variations in the sails especially and it is important to find the best ones for our style of sailing.  

We were also lucky enough to go and visit Sir Owen Glenn in London and got a great insight into who he was and to say a personal thank you. We were very honoured to have received the Yvette Williams scholarship and wish future recipients all the best with their campaigns.” -  Jason Saunders

About Yvette Williams (married name - Corlett)

An Olympic gold medal, four Empire Games gold medals and a world record make Yvette Williams one of New Zealands most accomplished athletes.

Williams grew up in Dunedin and is recalled for her dramatic Long Jump Gold Medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and for her world record in Gisborne 1954. 

She was a versatile athlete who won Empire Games Gold Medals in the Long Jump, Shot Put and Discus, and a Silver Medal in the Javelin. Adding to that tally she won 21 national titles spread over five disciplines. Not only was she blessed at athletics but was an all-round sporting dynamo, playing representative Netball, and Basketball for New Zealand, as well as  participating in Gymnastics, Equestrian, Swimming and Tennis.

Williams, although blessed with natural ability, represents an athlete who built a legacy based on hard work and sheer determination. 

She trained using concrete blocks and sandbags for weights every morning before she went to work. At lunchtime she ran in army boots in the Domain  - the theory being that when she didn’t have these boots on she felt like she was flying. 

After work she would focus on technique - jumping and throwing for hours and in the weekend, she took to the beach, running and jumping from the sand-dunes.

Following her gold medal triumph, Yvette returned from Helsinki a national hero and was rewarded with a grand public reception.

Williams retired before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics but remained involved in sport, helping form the Pakuranga Athletic Club in 1967, and working as a physical education teacher.

Williams was Sportsman of the Year twice, in 1950 and 1952, and was voted Athlete of the Decade for the 1950s. She was awarded an MBE in 1953, a CNZM in 2011 and was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990 and was voted Otago Sportsperson of the Century in 2000.

Nick Southgate cover3


Tokyo 2020 Gold Coast 2018 Gwangju 2015 FISU Summer Universiade Commonwealth Games Olympic Summer Games Gemma Jones Nick Southgate Jason Saunders Sailing
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