New Zealand's first Olympic gold recovered 112 years later

Publish Date
Monday, 8 July 2024, 3:52PM

The New Zealand Olympic Committee are thrilled to have recovered the country’s first Olympic gold medal, won by swimmer Malcolm Champion at the 1912 Stockholm Games.

The medal has been gifted to the NZOC by an Australian donor whose family received it from Champion’s family in the 1940s. Their wishes were for the medal to be returned to Aotearoa for all the country to enjoy its significance.

NZOC chief executive Nicki Nicol said the medal is a special part of sporting history and will be a taonga for the New Zealand team heading to Paris this month and those attending future Games.

“We’re extremely pleased to have recovered such a significant and special treasure from New Zealand’s sporting past,” said Nicol. “We’re extremely thankful to both the donor, and members of Malcolm Champion’s wider whānau.”

The medal will travel to Paris and be displayed in the Olympic Village alongside the Kiwi team kākahu (cloaks) and mauri stone. The NZOC then intends to put the medal on display for the New Zealand public and has made inquiries with the new Sports Hall of Fame.

The medal is 33mm in diameter, made of gold and gilt silver, and was presented to the aptly named Champion by King Gustaf V of Sweden.

On the front, two female figures are placing a laurel crown on the head of a victorious athlete. On the back, a herald proclaiming the opening of the 1912 Stockholm Olympics stands alongside a statue of the country’s physical education pioneer Per Henrik Ling.

“It’s a beautiful medal and we look forward to sharing it with our New Zealand team and the wider New Zealand public,” said Nicol.

Champion was 28 when he won gold as part of the Australasian 4x200m freestyle relay team. The 1912 Games were the last at which Australia and New Zealand competed as a combined team.

In the relay, Champion swam with Australian’s Harold Hardwick, Cecil Healy and Les Boardman. The quartet lined up in the final against the United States, Britain, Germany and Hungary.

Champion swam the second leg in a time of 2m 33.5, sending away Boardman with a 10-metre advantage the Australasian team would protect to win by 8s. Their time of 10m 11.6s was listed as a world record.

The medal has this week been on display for New Zealand’s swimmers as they prepare to depart for pre-Games training camps.

“It’s amazing and definitely inspiring to see such a cool part of New Zealand’s sporting history,” said Olympic debutant Hazel Ouwehand, who is set to compete in the 100m butterfly. “It’s a great reminder of how enduring the Olympics are and the rich legacy that we all are a part of.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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