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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 9 (December 1, 1938)

Panorama of the Playground — Sporting Facilities In Wellington

page 77

Panorama of the Playground
Sporting Facilities In Wellington

Visiting sportsmen have often remarked at the lack of sporting facilities in New Zealand — not to be confused with tennis courts, or race-tracks—and have told us of the marvellous Los Angeles Athletic Club, and of the New York Athletic Club. These massive buildings contain indoor tennis courts, swimming pools, boxing, wrestling and tumbling gymnasia, dance-floors, indoor athletic training tracks, and almost every sporting facility that could be desired.

New Zealand, unfortunately, has little of these splendours. I almost wrote “luxuries” instead of “splendours,” but, after all, they are not luxuries. To provide ample recreational facilities is a worthy ideal, and one giving sportsmen in Wellington a considerable amount of thought.

After many years of often-times bitter wrangling and dissention between the administrators of sport, there has arisen a much better feeling and, at last, there seems to be definite signs of co-operation. All summer field sports bodies are to stage at least one sports fixture in aid of a recreation fund, the Wellington City Council to use the proceeds toward making available more play areas.

On top of this decision, comes the Wellington Swimming Centre's appeal for a tepid swimming bath. Wellington, the Capital City of New Zealand, does not possess one swimming bath worthy of the name, and during the Centennial Exhibition, will have to stage the national swimming championships at Lower Hutt, ten miles away. In past years, the Wellington swimming body has had little support, practical or otherwise, from other sports bodies, but this year there has been a rallying round from other associations. A suggestion has been made that Wellington should form a “Federation of Amateur Sports,” with the view to securing something on the lines of the New York and Los Angeles Clubs. It is not suggested that such ornate buildings should be erected, but it is felt, and rightly so, I think, that the assembling of all sports bodies in one main building, with its modern equipment, will assist in furthering the causes of all branches of sport. Although the suggestion has not yet been tested out, there are indications that something of a concrete nature will be announced at an early date.

“Fitness Week.”

Last summer, a “Learn to Swim” Week was given a thorough trial in New Zealand and its success, considering the number of towns with inadequate swimming facilities, surpassed the wildest hopes of the sponsors. This summer, an even more comprehensive scheme will be launched—a “Fitness Week.” As the title suggests, this will be a drive for physical fitness, and young and old, male and female will be urged to indulge in recreation and exercise in the fresh summer air, instead of spending the days and evenings inside. Perhaps nowhere in the world has such a comprehensive scheme been suggested. Its success will depend on the individual who helps swell the masses. Each citizen must play his or her part. Its all so simple—just make a point of getting out into the open-air, and having some form of recreation. Some will favour swimming, tennis, cricket or soft-ball, bowling, croquet, fishing, track and field athletics, or even hiking. No matter what form your recreation may take, make sure that the first week of February is devoted to a greater participation of the benefits of healthy recreation in the open-air. If each and every one of us does just that thing, the success of “Fitness Week” will be assured.

A Champion Weight-lifter.

In the preceding paragraphs I have devoted space to “Fitness Week.” I should have made it clear that “fitness” does not necessarily mean bulging muscles or thick necks. But there is one branch of physical activity making progress in New Zealand that develops big muscles—and fitness, too! I refer to weight-lifting, that oft-times abused “iron” sport. The National championships were held in Napier recently, and several Australian and New Zealand records were established. Although he did not establish any records at the championships, H. Cleghorn, of Auckland, has, this season, proved himself to be the second best weight-lifter in the British Empire. A recent total weight-lift for three movements, saw Cleghorn get within 30 lbs. of the 1932 Olympic winning weight. Cleghorn is ideally built, and steps are being taken to make provision for the inclusion of New Zealand weight-lifters in the page 78 Olympic team for 1940. Competent critics are of the opinion that Cleghorn, given competition against class men, will develop into world championship calibre.

“The Railways Workshops Gym.”

Out at Moera, near the Railway Workshops, only a few miles from Wellington, is one of the busiest gymnasiums in New Zealand. Known to boxing patrons in many parts of the North Island, “The Railways Workshops Gym” has supplied boxers for many amateur tourneys and, although I do not possess any official figures, I am confident in stating that representatives from this popular sports rendezvous have won considerably more matches than they have lost. The instructors are Messrs. Alf. Cleverley (Olympic representative and former New Zealand champion) and Dick Dunn, of the well-known boxing family. Attending many boxing tournaments, as I do in my capacity as a sportswriter, I have been impressed by the boxing knowledge displayed by the pupils of this gymnasium. But, equally as important, is the manner in which these boys enter the ring. They are garbed in an attractive, but serviceable uniform, covered before the commencement of the contest in a “Railways Workshops Gym.” dressing gown. The men in the Railway service should be justly proud of this fine boxing gymnasium.

Keep Fit.

It has been truly said that a man is only as old as he feels—some of us would amend that to “as he looks,” but no matter how the adage is twisted, when it is applied to Paddy Hannan, former professional sculling champion of New Zealand, the effect is the same. Paddy has passed his 54th birthday, but is as sprightly as the days when he defeated the former world sculling champions, George Towns, Darcy Had-field and Dick Arnst. Nowadays, a successful businessman in Picton, Paddy invariably pays a visit to Wellington on the annual excursion of Marlborough residents, and renews acquaintances with his many friends. I asked Paddy the secret of his “perpetual” youth, and he told me it was no secret—he had trained conscientiously, when an active competitor, and had continued to keep in training ever since. Too many athletes cease training as soon as they finish their active sports career. This, he declares, is a fatal mistake. Bringing an engine to a sudden halt invariably disrupts part of the machinery—and so it is with the human frame. The slowing-down of training should be a gradual process, ending only with the close of life's span.