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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 10 (January 2, 1939)


The decision of the New Zealand British Empire and Olympic Games Association to select a smaller representation than usual and to make provision for the team to have a longer period in England before the commencement of the 1940 Olympic Games in Helsinki (Helsingfors), Finland, has been generally approved by those who are keen to see New Zealand occupy a prominent place in world sport.

New Zealand has always been a keen supporter of the Olympic movement and has invariably endeavoured to live up to the ideals of the founder of the modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who placed the joy of competition above the thrills of winning.

In past years, New Zealand has insisted that nominees for places in the Olympic teams shall have returned performances which would have gained them sixth places at the previous Games. The difficulty has been that such nominees, for many reasons, have not been able to reproduce such form abroad. There is no disputing the fact that V. P. Boot and C. H. Matthews were both up to Olympic standard in 1936, but neither man reproduced New Zealand form. Training on cinder tracks—bringing with it shin-soreness—was one reason for their loss of form.

It is now intended that an even more stringent test be set nominees and that they be given ample time to get acclimatised before the commencement of the Games. Here again there is a conflict of opinions. How long does it take an athlete to become acclimatised? When the New Zealand Olympic team of 1932 arrived in Los Angeles it was thought they would be acclimatised by the time the Games commenced. Actually they were far from that desirable state—they had been in California too long and the climate had sapped their vitality. Had they been able to compete three weeks earlier they would have been in better shape.

The long sea-voyage, the change of climate and the difference in food all play a part in making it difficult for a visiting athlete to reach top form. American athletes invariably do their training at home and arrive at the Games only a few days before the competitions are due to commence. This, unfortunately, is not possible with New Zealand athletes, and it is remarkable that the best performances by New Zealand Olympic representatives were in 1920—at Antwerp—when all four representatives—Miss Violet Walrond, George Davidson, Harry Wilson and Darcy Hadfield—competed in the finals.

This team arrived only a few days before the Games commenced, but had gone via a round-about route and had had competition in Australia and South Africa. Davidson qualified for the semi-finals of the 200 metres by defeating the great Charlie Paddock, who predicted a great future for the young New Zealander, who, unfortunately, did not take the sport seriously enough in later years. In the first semi-final, Davidson filled third place to Loren Murchison (U.S.A.) and H. F. V. Edward (Great Britain), with Maurice Kirksey, later to compete in New Zealand, fifth. Davidson was fifth in the final, trailing Woodring, Paddock, Edward and Murchison and defeating Jock Oosterlaak (South Africa), who later competed in New Zealand.

Miss Violet Walrond, New Zealand's youngest Olympic representative, finished third in the first heat of the 100 metres women's swimming event and fifth in the final. Although qualified to start in the final of the 300 metres, after placing second in her heat, Miss Walrond took ill and had to withdraw.

Harry Wilson ran into exceptionally strong competition in the 110 metres hurdling event. He filled second place in the first heat, third place in the semi-finals and fourth in the final. Although no better than fourth, his time in the final was only one-fifth second outside the previous world record, the winner, Earl Thomson (Canada) breaking the record of 15 sec. by one-fifth second.

Darcy Hadfield, who later won the world professional sculling championship, won his heat of the sculling championship and placed second to J. B. Kelly, the ultimate winner, in the semi-final. In the final, Hadfield placed third to Kelly (U.S.A.) and J. B. Beresford (Great Britain).

This team benefited from competition during their voyage to Antwerp. Had they been there a month or two earlier it is doubtful if they would have done any better. The time comes when the body undergoes a change brought on by altered living conditions and once this starts it is not a matter of months or weeks before the nervous system is adjusted; it runs into page 62 years and no country can afford to send athletes over a year or two in advance.