Did you know that New Zealand’s first gold medal was won by a boxer called Ted Morgan in 1928?
Boxing is one of the oldest sports at the Olympics; it’s been around for around 5,000 years and was practiced in China, Greece and Rome. It was first introduced as an Olympic sport in 1902. It’s been in every Olympic Games since then except the 1912 Games, as Sweden, the host country, had a law against boxing.
Boxing was traditionally fought with bare hands until 1867, when the Queensbury rules were introduced. It was these rules that also introduced weight limits to the sport. These rules were extremely influential on boxing, and changed it from bare-knuckle brawls to a real sport.
New Zealand is sending two boxers, Siona Fernandez and Alexis Pritchard to the London; this year is the first time women’s boxing is appearing at the Olympic games.
New Zealand didn’t compete as a nation in its own right until 1920; in the previous Olympics we had competed as a conjoint team with Australia. In 1920 New Zealand’s first Olympic team took 9 weeks to get to Antwerp by ship. Every member of that team made it to the finals, and Violet Walrond, our first female Olympian, was with them. She was only 15 at the time, and only 14 when she qualified. Unfortunately, she stopped swimming at 18.
Our first gold medal was in boxing, and was won by Ted Morgan in 1928. Yvette Williams was the first New Zealand woman to win a gold medal in 1952, in long-jump. The next female Olympian to win Gold was Barbara Kendall, in 1992. Barbara Kendall competed in five Olympic Games…that’s pretty impressive!
Perhaps the most famous historical Olympian is Peter Snell. He first won gold in the 800m race in 1960, and won two more gold medals in 1964. But he’s not New Zealand’s most ‘successful’ Olympian: that’s Ian Ferguson, a canoeist, who has won 4 gold medals and one bronze across five Olympic games.
This is a great book that will tell you about some of out best Olympians.
Judo and Taekwondo are the only two Asian Martial Arts that are accepted as Olympic sports.
Taekwondo became an Olympic sport in 2000. That’s quite late; early forms of Taekwondo began appearing in Korea almost 2000 years ago. That makes it almost as old as the Olympic games themselves! Today, Taekwondo is practised in about 190 countries. The country that has won the most medals in Taekwondo is South Korea, followed by China and then the United States. The three New Zealanders in Taekwondo are Logan Campbell, Vaughn Scott, and Robin Cheong.
Judo was started in Japan and became an Olympic sport in 1964, although it was demonstrated at the 1932 Olympics . Judo was created by Jigoro Kano, a Japanese educator. Visually impaired martial artists can also compete in Judo at the Paralympics. Japan has won the most medals in Judo, followed by France and then South Korea. Moira de Villiers is the only New Zealand Judoka (someone who practices Judo) at this years Olympics.
Did you know that sword-fighting is an Olympic sport? At the Olympics it is called fencing. Fencers fight one-on-one indoors on what is called the Strip. The Strip is 14 metres long and 2 metres wide. Competitors have to stay within this boundary. A fencing challenge is called a bout. Fencers fight in bouts of 3, which last 3 minutes each.
Competitors fight with three different kinds of swords: foils, epees and sabres. Medals are given for the winners in each competition for each kind of sword. Each sword has its own rules, but generally a competitor scores one point each time they touch the other person with the tip of their sword. To win they must score 15 hits on their opponent, or the highest number of hits in a bout. Fencers dress all in white. So that the competitors do not get hurt for real they wear gloves, padded jackets and pants, and wire masks to protect their faces. Most importantly, the swords have blunt tips!
Sword-fighting is a very old sport. Many soldiers in ancient cultures fought with swords, including the Greeks and Romans. Fencing schools were founded in Medieval England, and the rules of fencing were set up by the end of the 1400s. The foil sword was invented in the 1600s, as well as the mesh face mask.
Fencing was first part of the Olympics in 1896, and has been included in every Olympic Games ever since. France, Italy and Hungary have had a strong tradition of fencing since the 1800s. They frequently win the individual men, women and team events, along with Germany and Russia.
You can learn all about what it is like to be a fencer in Fencing is For Me, and learn all about every single Olympic sport in the Macmillan encyclopedia of Olympic sports.
Cycling has been an Olympic sport since the very beginning of the modern Olympic Games. It made its first appearence at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens.
Bicylces had been around since the early 1800s, but they had only recently become popular. Can you imagine trying to race on the penny farthing? The bicycles at the first Olympics were much more like the bikes we ride today, with two wheels of the same size.
There was only one cycling event at the first modern Olympic Games: the men’s road race, which had only seven contestants. Five of them were from Greece!
Today there are 18 different events, with both men and women participating. In the men’s road race in 2012, there will be 145 contestants. That’s quite a step up from 1896! Probably the most famous New Zealand Olympic cyclist is Sarah Ulmer, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
With the London 2012 Olympics happening now, we always hope that New Zealand can bring home a gold medal. According to Wikipedia, as of April 25,2012, New Zealand has so far won 55 Olympic gold medals! Six of the athletes who won the gold medals were women. They have been dubbed the golden girls and they are :
- Yvette Williams- she is the first woman ever to win the gold medal for New Zealand. Her event was the Long Jump in the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.
- Sarah Ulmer -was the first New Zealander to win an Olympic cycling gold. She also set world records at the 2004 Summer Olympics at Athens.
- Barbara Kendall – is a boardsailor. She won a gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. She also went on to win a silver medal in 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta, Georgia), and a bronze medal in 2000 in Sydney. She also finished 5th at the 2004 Games in Athens and sixth at the 2008 Games in China. She is the first, and as of 2008, only woman from New Zealand to compete at 5 Olympic Games!
- Caroline Meyer (formerly known as Caroline Evers-Swindell)- her event is the double sculls along with her identical twin sister. She won with her sister,the double sculls gold medal in the 2004 Olympic games. At the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, she and her sister successfully defended their title and won gold medals in the women’s double sculls.
- Georgina Earl (formerly known as Georgina Evers-Swindell) – She competed in the double sculls with her identical twin sister Caroline Meyer, and is a double Olympic gold medalist, having won at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
- Valerie Kasanita Adams (formerly known as Valerie Vili)- she is a shot putter and is the reigning women’s Olympic champion and three-time World champion, two-time Commonwealth and World Indoor champion.
The library has a book about these awesome women Olympic gold medalists Golden Girls: celebrating New Zealand’s six female gold medalists. It is a young adult and adult non fiction but you might like to try check it out.
On Friday 27th of July is the opening ceremony for the 30th Olympic Games held in London, England. The opening ceremony is usually a spectacular show with all the competing athletes marching into the main stadium and the Olympic flame being lit by the Olympic torch. It’ll be worth getting out of bed to watch!
Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, has launched a really great site full of information about the Olympics, Empire and Commonwealth games and New Zealand’s involvement. It has information on our medal winners and the sports that we are really good at. Best of all, it has loads of videos and pictures so you can see what they are talking about. Take a look!
Did you know that archery is the proper name for Katniss Everdeen’s special skill with the bow and arrow in The Hunger Games series? Archery has been a popular competition sport since ancient times. The Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Persians all used a bow and arrow for hunting, warfare and competition. Archery was very popular in medieval England, and archery tournaments were held. Robin Hood, as well as being a famous outlaw, was also known for being an excellent shooter with a bow and arrow.
Archery first became an Olympic sport in 1900, but it stopped being an Olympic sport for 50 years before being reintroduced in 1972. Archers compete on an outdoor range, and have to shoot 72 arrows at targets 70 metres away. Each target is 122 centimetres in diameter, and has 10 rings inside it, each 6.1 centimetres wide. Each ring increases by one point, until you get to the centre, the bull’s eye, which is worth 10 points.
Men and women both compete in archery in individual, and in team tournaments. The female competitors from South Korea are very good; they have won every women’s individual gold medal from 1984 to 2000. The South Korean women’s team have won every team event since 1988 as well.
You can learn about every single Olympic sport in the Macmillan encyclopedia of Olympic sports.
The Olympics start in 4 days!
What a privilage it must be to carry the Olympic Torch. Besides the many athletes and celebrities who carry the torch many local people and those with a record of community service are selected to carry it.
It all begins at Olympia were the flame is kindled from the sun’s rays. This is then used to light the Olympic Torch. The design of the torch varies for each games but they usually have a metal bowl in which the flame burns, and this is attached to a metal handle that you hold at the other end. The Olympic rings and an olive wreath decorate the torch.
The torch begins it’s journey known as a relay by travelling through Greece and its islands. It will then make its journey to the continent of the host city where it will travel to all corners of the land, visiting cities, towns and areas of special significance.
Runners usually carry the torch for a distance of 1 kilometre and when it reaches the Olympic stadium it is used to light the Olympic cauldron which then burns throughout the games.
Try visiting the Olympic Torch Relay Route to see the where the torch is today.
Have you ever wondered why we have the Olympic Flame – what does it mean and how did it come about?
In Ancient Greece, the sun’s rays were used to create a sacred flame at the temple of the goddess Hera at Olympia. The Greeks believed that this altar in Olympia was the birthplace of fire. The flame symbolised purity and the struggle for perfection and victory and it burned throughout the ancient games.
The flame was re-introduced for the Modern Olympics in 1928 for the Games in Amsterdam and it has continued to be a special part of the ceremony ever since.
Several weeks before the Games begin they hold a special ceremony at Olympia. Women dressed as priestesses in classical Greek robes, used a concave, or curved mirror to concentrate the sun’s rays to make fire. When the flame starts the president for the Greek Olympic Committee lights the Olympic torch which then begins a long journey known as a torch relay arriving at its host city in time for the opening ceremony.
Today the flame represents peace and friendship throughout the world and the flame burns brightly above the main stadium throughout the games until it is extinguished at the closing ceremony.