South Canterbury glory from dusty back pages

TOP-FIVE: Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Marc Ryan.
TOP-FIVE: Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Marc Ryan.

There have been many sporting highlights in the past 150 years covered by the Timaru Herald.

Sports editor Stu Piddington has delved into the history books and has come up with his five favourites, in no particular order.


Born in a paddock at Seadown in 1926, the chestnut colt captured the imagination of the public on both sides of the Tasman after winning the Melbourne Cup.

Harry Telford, a New Zealand horse trainer, took him to his Sydney base.

Phar Lap had five starts as a 2-year-old in the autumn of 1929, finishing outside the money in the first four races, then won the fifth and then finished third in his first Melbourne Cup.

In the autumn of 1930 he started his legendary string of successes - winning 33 of the remaining 35 races in his career, including the Melbourne Cup.

Phar Lap then headed to North America and won the prestigious Agua Caliente Handicap in Mexico in March 1932, in record time.

On April 5, Australia and New Zealand's favourite horse died suddenly, possibly from eating poisoned grass, but the real cause was never established.

The distribution of his remains reflects the claims on him by both Australia and New Zealand.

His heart, at 6.3 kilograms it is extraordinarily large by horse standards, is in a bottle in Canberra. The hide is mounted on a model of Phar Lap in the Museum of Victoria. His bones came back to New Zealand and are on display at Te Papa.


Fitzsimmons became the first boxer to hold world titles at three weights.

Born in England, in 1863, he emigrated with his family and arrived in Timaru in 1873.

On leaving schools he worked as a blacksmith, which built the powerful arms and shoulders which made him such a devastating puncher when he took up boxing. His upper body formed a marked contrast to his spindly legs.

In 1881 Fitzsimmons turned professional, fighting with success in Australia.

In 1890 he headed to the United States and after winning three bouts he was matched with Jack Dempsey for the world middleweight championship.

Fitzsimmons caused an upset by knocking the champion out in the 13th round.

In 1897 Fitzsimmons became heavyweight champion of the world when he knocked out James Corbett in 14 rounds at Carson City, Nevada.

Fitzsimmons lost his title on his first defence to James Jeffries, to whom he conceded 39 pounds (13.5 kilograms) and 12 years.

Six years later he took the light-heavyweight championship of the world from George Gardner, winning on points over 20 rounds at San Francisco.

Of his 62 bouts he won 40, lost 9 and drew 13.


Lovelock's dramatic victory in the 1500 metres at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in world record time of 3 minutes 47.8 seconds, wrote him into New Zealand's sporting history as the country's first athletics gold medallist.

He led a remarkable life before his death in a New York subway, just a few days shy of his 40th birthday,

But Lovelock also achieved academically, forged a successful medical career and was a husband and father of two.

At Fairlie Primary School (1919-23) he was dux, before boarding at Timaru Boys' High School.

In 1928 Lovelock was head prefect, dux and won the school's boxing championship cup.

He went on to study medicine at Otago University and was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

He was awarded the scholarship and attended Exeter College, Oxford, from 1931 to 1934.

While studying there Lovelock broke the British mile record (1932), competed in the 1932 Olympics, set a world mile record (1933) and won gold at the 1934 Empire Games.

It was, however, in Berlin that Lovelock achieved his greatest accolade.


Ryan has twice been a bronze medallist at the Olympics as part of the New Zealand pursuit team.

His first experience of the big-time was at the 2004 Athens Olympics, when he was a member of the team pursuit squad that finished 10th.

The 31-year-old is a three-time Olympian and looks likely to go to four, a rare feat in modern sport.

At the recent world championships in Colombia Ryan bagged two bronze medals with a storming finish in the men's 4000m individual pursuit as well as in the team pursuit.

Ryan also had numerous world cup medals and two Commonwealth Games medals, a silver and bronze.

He regularly rides in South Canterbury and was the inspiration for two of his BikeNZ team-mates, Shane Archbold and Dylan Kennett, to take up the sport.


Rugby has been the dominant force when it comes to sport over the past 125 years.

There have been many highlights, including 21 All Blacks, and the 17-14 win against the French in 1961 that saw the highest attendance ever at then Fraser Park with 17,000.

That game also became legendary after umbrella-wielding Mrs Hilda Madson of Oamaru appeared from the crowd and punched French loose forward Michael Crauste, after he had punched South Canterbury's Ted Smith while his back was turned.

A little-known fact is that South Canterbury centurion Barry Fairbrother still holds the New Zealand first-class record for the most drop goals with 61.

It was, however, South Canterbury's two Ranfurly Shield wins that captured the public's imagination at the time.

The 1950 team lifted The Log of Wood from Wairarapa with a 17-14 win at Solway Showgrounds in Masterton.

South Canterbury lost the shield to North Auckland, 9-20, a fortnight later but not before thousands turned out on Station St to welcome the winners home.

The second win was also a surprise, an 18-6 victory against Marlborough in 1974 at Lansdowne Park, Blenheim.

Gene Thomsen and Dave Cochrane scored the tries and Doug Nicol landed two penalties and two conversions.

The team successfully defended the shield against North Otago 9-3, on August 31 and three days later lost 9-3 in a controversial game against Wellington.

The Timaru Herald