Ian Roy Ballinger

IAN BALLINGER: Besides excelling as a shooter, he showed his prowess as a bowler and golfer and also raced thoroughbreds.
The Press
IAN BALLINGER: Besides excelling as a shooter, he showed his prowess as a bowler and golfer and also raced thoroughbreds.

Ian Roy Ballinger, Mexico City Olympics bronze medal, shooting; Born October 21, 1925; married (1) Doreen Fleming, 4 sons, dissolved 1950; (2) Dawne Subritsky, 2 sons 2 daughters; died Christchurch, December 24, 2008, aged 83.
Ian Ballinger was one of a few who have been selected for four Olympic Games. At Mexico City he won New Zealand's first, and to date only, shooting medal - a bronze. Even fewer have represented their country past the age of 50.

He was awarded the Lonsdale Trophy in 1968 for his outstanding contribution to sport.

The Ballinger Belt, New Zealand's oldest sporting trophy, was donated by one of Ian's great-uncles, Arthur Ballinger. Ian won it in 1969 and his son Graeme in 1996 to truly cement the family connection.

Born and raised in Taranaki, Ballinger moved into the car parts industry when he left school. In New Plymouth he married Doreen and they had sons Kevin, Glen, John and Graeme. He had a short time in Nelson before moving to Christchurch, where he joined the furnishing retailer A J White. He then married Dawne and they had four children, Rayma, Rex, Tina and Steven.

Ballinger and Maurie Brons set up gunsmiths Brons and Ballinger in Victoria St and Ian bought Maurie out in 1961 and continued with the business till retirement in 1981.

He was a fierce competitor all his life. As a youngster he was a capable runner. He built and raced karts, raced thoroughbreds and got down to a single-figure handicap as a golfer. Trying bowls, he represented Canterbury in his first year.

Around family and friends he would make anything a competition. But it was shooting that made him a household name.

Shooting indoor smallbore with the Sydenham club, he represented the South Island and New Zealand from 1953 to 1965. He was national indoor and 50m champion three times. He decided that was enough and practically gave shooting away.

When New Zealand decided to compete at the 1968 Olympics in shooting he came out of semi-retirement. After the trials he was picked alongside Stewart Nairn, and shot a 597 to win the bronze.

After the match Ballinger was approached by Dieter Anschutz, a reputable German rifle manufacturer making his mark in Olympic shooting. "I would like to offer you one of my rifles in honour of your achievement," he said. A true amateur, Ballinger said that if he accepted it he would be branded a professional. Anschutz glanced along the lines of shooters and replied: "Then it appears there are a lot of professionals here today." But a few years later Ballinger became an agent for Anschutz rifles.

While trying out for team selection on two legendary occasions at Putaruru, the South Islanders were late getting to the trials because of errant trains and planes. Arriving just before dawn in 1972, Ballinger proceeded to shoot four matches that blitzed the field. In 1973 they arrived late in the day but he still managed to shoot the cleanest 600 anyone had seen and followed up with a 597.

He made three more Olympic teams but was unable to repeat his 1968 performance, finishing 46th in Munich and 20th in Montreal. He missed Moscow due to the boycott that following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Ballinger represented New Zealand at the 1974 Christchurch and 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, finishing fourth and seventh.

He was always surprised to be questioned by the media on the latest shooting medal prospects as he felt he "only" had a bronze. But that medal remains New Zealand's only Olympic shooting medal and makes the achievement 41 years ago all the more remarkable.

It was timely that the target-shooting community took the opportunity to acknowledge his achievement at a function in Palmerston North in February last year.

Just before Christmas he fell and broke his hip. He died from a heart attack and complications after a hip replacement operation.

Sources: Rayma Boyd, Tina Ballinger, Shoota (Graeme) Ballinger, Ian Ballinger.

The Dominion Post