New Zealand Recovers 1912 Olympic Swimming Medal, Oldest in Nation’s History

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

New Zealand Recovers 1912 Olympic Swimming Medal, Oldest in Nation’s History

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has recovered the oldest Olympic gold medal in the country’s history, belonging to swimmer Malcolm Champion.

The medal dates from the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. It was won by Champion as part of the Australasia 800 freestyle relay team.

Champion was the lone New Zealand swimmer on that quartet and remained New Zealand’s lone swimming gold medalist until Danyon Loader in 1996. The medal was given to the NZOC by an Australian donor whose family received the medal from Champion’s family after his death in 1939. It was given to that family with the intention of eventual repatriation to New Zealand.

“We never saw it as ours exclusively,” Anne Dillon, a member of the family, told 1NewsNZ, “and we want it shared with the nation.”

“We’re extremely pleased to have recovered such a significant and special treasure from New Zealand’s sporting past,” NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol said. “We’re extremely thankful to both the donor, and members of Malcolm Champion’s wider whanau, who we’ve met with, and who are thrilled it has been recovered and will be shared with all of New Zealand.”

The medal will travel with New Zealand to future Olympics, including this summer in Paris, where it will be put on display at the country’s section of the Olympic village. It will be displayed for the New Zealand public at the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame’s new building in Cambridge, construction of which is slated to start this year.

Champion was born in 1883 on Norfolk Island, now an Australian territory, but moved to Auckland as a teen. He was 28 when he traveled to Stockholm for the Olympics, where he joined Australia natives Cecil Healy, Leslie Boardman and Harold Hardwick on the quartet, replacing Bill Longworth due to illness. Hardwick won bronzes in the 400 and 1,500 free, Healy a silver in the 100 free.

Champion was eliminated in the semifinal of the 400 free and did not finish in the final of the men’s 1,500 free. He had been Australasia’s flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony.

Champion retired from swimming at age 31, a 31-time national champion denied another Olympics by World War I. He died at age 56 in Auckland. He was an inaugural inductee to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame upon its founding in 1990. He is also the only New Zealander in the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, thanks to the 1912 relay’s induction in 2005.

“It’s amazing and definitely inspiring to see such a cool part of New Zealand’s sporting history,” Olympic swimmer Hazel Ouwehand said. “It’s a great reminder of how enduring the Olympics are and the rich legacy that we all are a part of.”

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Rhonda Griffiths
Rhonda Griffiths
12 days ago

We have known about Malcolm Champion for a long time here on Norfolk Island. Our local sports oval at the school is named after Malcolm!

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