A Touch of History
The New Brighton Olympic Athletic Club was established in 2011 by the merger of two of Canterbury’s proud and high achieving athletics clubs.
New Brighton Athletics Club
From humble beginnings the club over a few decades developed into the top performing club in New Zealand. This is highlighted by the men scoring seven victories in the National Road Relay. Add to that 14 wins by the men and two by the women in the Takahe to Akaroa Relay which is regarded as the indicator for club supremacy in Canterbury. We also hold the local race record for both grades.
In 1941 Jim McCormack became our first NZ Champion winning the junior high jump, with Peter Price becoming our first senior champion in 1956 in the long jump.
The club has always had many great administrators and willing helpers, and this has never been more highlighted when members raised enough capital in the 60's to build a cinder track, when this was the surface used at the Olympics at the time. Mainly through the amazing fundraising efforts of Robyn Horton a pavilion was added in 1969 leaving the New Brighton club the envy of other clubs in Christchurch.
The club always had a policy of looking after youngsters and this was to pay dividends in later years. Against the grain of the times the club was a pioneer in women’s and veteran’s athletics and in 1973 held an International Veterans meeting at their track. Over the years a number of meetings have been held with top invited athletes from around the country.
The club has had many outstanding athletes which is highlighted by the amazing figure of 228 medals at national level. This is made up of 82 gold, 90 silver and 56 bronze. Some of our more prominent athletes are as follows. Peter Renner is our only Olympian and led the steeplechase final in 1984 until a lap to go. He has also been to the World Athletics Champs, 3 Commonwealth Games and two World Cross-Country Champs. Other Commonwealth Games representatives have been Neil Lowsley, Philip Watson and Don Greig who also went to the World Athletic Champs and World Cross-Country. Other World Cross-Country representatives have been Tom Birnie, Sue Bruce, Sara Harnett and Wendy Renner.
Although the club has had many stars, there has also been a strong emphasis on the social side catering for athletes of all abilities. A club could not function without a strong all round membership and the many administrators and coaches that give freely with their time.
The future looks bright with a strong children’s section, and a number of youngsters coming through, such as Hayden McLaren who became NZ’s second youngest four minute miler. They say every cloud has a silver lining, but one benefit of the earthquakes is that the council has upgraded our track, field event areas and equipment which should position us well for years to come. On a final note, the merger with the Olympic Club has strengthened all sections of the club and will keep us competitive for the road ahead.
Olympic Harrier Club
Founded in 1949, by Fred Mair and Lionel Fox, two of Canterbury's most noted distance runners, and some exceptionally capable administrators, the Olympic Harrier and Athletic Club quickly became one of the most competitive clubs on the Canterbury scene. The name 'Olympic' was chosen because it portrayed excellence and that emphasis has been, and is, the aim of all areas of athletic endeavour the club fosters.
Lionel Fox and Jack Clarke were the Club's first New Zealand representatives in the Empire Games Marathon in 1950, when Jack was the bronze medallist. There have been many more who have gained national representation since. John Sheddan and Paul Smith both gained New Zealand selection for three World Cross-Country Championships. Paul won several national titles on the track, road and cross-country and Geoff Pyne similarly gained several national track and cross-country national titles, was a Commonwealth Games representative in 1966 and a New Zealand Team World Cross Country representative in 1967, 1970 and 1971.
Women members first appeared in 1953 and as individuals and in teams have been highly successful. Perhaps the most prominent has been Debbie Sheddan a New Zealand track champion and Commonwealth Games representative in 1991 and multiple title winner on the local scene. Robyn Duncan, in 1997, was our first New Zealand Womens Marathon Champion and Brenda Fortune, June Miles and Anne Clarke have all achieved international successes in masters grades.
There have been many outstanding athletes but space limits an extensive list. The Macdonald twins, however, must be mentioned. Jim and John, dominated middle and long distance racing in Canterbury for two decades and into masters ranks where they achieved world championship and world record status for a further two decades. Their example has encouraged many to enjoy masters athletics as the years overtake us.
But a club depends on more than just its stars and the Olympic Club's record in team events shows how even less-capable runners were inspired to victorious performances. It is this interdependence on fellow club mates which provides the most memorable satisfaction. Successful or defeated, Olympic has always created a keen loyalty amongst all of its members. Many have run for several decades with the doyen being Red Maddock who took part in the Opening Run in 1949 and is still competing regularly. Many members have long family connections within the Club. Parent and child running combinations are numerous and the Richards family (with Noni - a 1950 member, Kevin - Club Champion in 1954, and Glenn and his son Stewart) has now achieved four generations of membership.
The Club has been exceptionally fortunate in those who offered themselves for administrative roles throughout the years. Club Officers pride themselves on maintaining in the Olympic Club a spirit of friendliness, efficiency and caring for fellow members which is unsurpassed.
Although traditionally fostering competitive racing throughout all age groups, as a glance at any of the local team trophies shows, the Club also has a strong social emphasis. All members are supported in their enjoyment of the sport and are encouraged to improve their health and fitness, and where desired, are assisted to develop their running, walking and field events talents through opportunities for coaching, and competition both within the Club and beyond.
But history doesn't stop. The past has gone - in enjoyment, in effort, and in achievement. Current and new members will decide the future.