READER REPORT:

Remember our historical heroes

ROBBIE TITCHENER
Last updated 09:30 22/02/2013
Violet Walrond
POOL PIONEER: Violet Walrond.

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Don't get me wrong, the latest inductees to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame - double international Jeff Wilson and Olympian Bruce Kendall - were deserved inductees.

Wilson was a sporting freak who represented his country in two sports before he was 20, and went on to become one of our greatest All Black wings ever. Kendall won gold and bronze medals at the Olympics and inspired a new generation of boardsailers, including his sister, triple Olympic medallist Barbara. They are legends of our more recent sporting history, but what about those who made their mark 50, 60, 100 years ago?

Hall of Fame inductees must have, to quote the Hall's website, "performed in sport to an outstanding degree, usually at international level". But over the past 15 years, the criteria also seems to be that the two inductees per year must also have competed recently. Of the 27 inductees since 1999, two competed predominantly in the 1960s, one in the 1970s, and the majority were 1980s onwards. Only two historical greats were inducted, rugby's Tom Ellison and Mark Nicholls.

Sure, we like to see our sporting heroes, but let's not forget those who competed in much tougher conditions, who paved the way for the stars of today, those who don't deserve to be forgotten.

Violet Walrond came fifth in the 100m freestyle at the 1920 Olympics, swimming in outdoor pools after a two-month voyage to get to the games. She was our first female Olympian, aged only 15.

Of New Zealand's 102 summer Olympic medals, athletics and rowing top the table with 21 each. Cyril Stiles and Fred Thompson won silver at the 1932 Games, New Zealand's first rowing medal and our only medal of those games.

In the five games from 1952-1968, New Zealand won nine golds and seven bronze, an outstanding return for such a small nation. Of the seven bronze medallists, three were inducted before 2000, one in 2010, and the other three (who are all now unfortunately deceased) have so far missed out.

These examples are just from the Olympics, but they are just some of the many sportspeople who have made New Zealand such a great sporting nation, and who deserve to be honoured and remembered.

Personally I would like to see the Hall of Fame induct at least one historical athlete, who competed at least 50 years previously, every year. It certainly won't demean the Hall. If anything, it will increase and enhance the mana and honour of those more recent sportspeople who, at the end of their careers, are judged worthy to stand alongside their predecessors, their contemporaries, and their peers.


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