Weekly Review No. 350 - New Zealanders for the Olympics

Short Film, 1948 (Full Length)

This National Film Unit magazine film meets the NZ team for the 1948 London Olympics as they prepare to depart by boat (accompanied by a manager, and a chaperone for the sole female competitor). Each of the seven members is profiled in this reminder of an era when athletes had day jobs, training was 'several hours a day' and swimsuits looked more like impediments than performance aids. A nicely-shot demonstration of weightlifting technique by Maurice Crow is a highlight. Despite the enthusiasm of Selwyn Toogood's voiceover, the team failed to win any medals.

Attitude - Special Olympics Unity Cup

Television, 2010 (Full Length Episode)

Attitude is a weekly series looking at the issues and interests of people living with a disability. This episode features the Special Olympics Unity Cup at the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa. The team is made up of intellectually disabled players from around the world, and celebrities such as South African president Jacob Zuma, Special Olympics boss Tim Shriver (of the Kennedy family), and Chinese movie star Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Mark Liggins is the Kiwi representative on the team, and he travels to the cup with former All Whites captain Steve Sumner.

John Walker - The 3.49.4 Man

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

On the eve of the 1976 Montreal Olympics, this Keith Quinn-scripted profile traces the career of athlete John Walker, from being a training averse teen at the Manurewa Harrier Club to his world mile record triumph in Göteborg, Sweden. Walker still smarts from his second place to Filbert Bayi in the 1500 metres at the 1974 Commonwealth Games. What are euphemistically referred to as "political implications" (Kiwi sporting ties with South Africa) have prevented further match-ups — and they'll ultimately remove the Tanzanian from the race so keenly anticipated here.

Turn of the Century

Television, 1987 (Full Length)

This documentary comprehensively traces the history of skiing and winter sports in New Zealand. From Mannering and Dixon, who used homemade skis in an almost-successful ascent of Mt Cook and the hut-building pioneers of recreational ski clubs in their pre-Gore-tex garb, to commercial ski fields and lifts, superb archive footage shows the advances. New Zealand teams at the Winter Olympics in Oslo in 1952 and Sarajevo 32 years later had come some way from the days when carrier pigeons were used to report snow conditions from Canterbury's ski fields to Christchurch.

Peter Snell, Athlete

Television, 1964 (Full Length)

This NFU classic tells Peter Snell's story, up until just before his triumph at the Tokyo Olympics (he'd already won 800 metres gold in Rome, and beaten the world record for the mile). Snell's commentary — focused, candid — plays over footage of training and some of his key races. "It always gives a feeling of exhilaration to run in the New Zealand all black singlet." Snell offers insights into the marathon-style training of coach Arthur Lydiard (15 miles daily, 100 miles a week), and there's priceless footage of Snell running through bush and leaping fences in Auckland's Waiatarua hills. 

This is Your Life - John Walker

Television, 1985 (Full Length Episode)

After days of elaborate subterfuge, host Bob Parker, with his trademark red book, ambushes champion middle distance runner John Walker at a dinner at Trillos nightclub. A week earlier, Walker had become the first person to run 100 sub-four minute miles. Parker leads him through a career that also includes his mile world record, the epic 1974 Commonwealth Games 1,500 metres final and Olympic gold at Montreal in 1976. Those paying pay tribute in person or via satellite include athletics superstars Filbert Bayi, Sebastian Coe, Steve Scott and Peter Snell.

Pieces of Eight - A Quest for Gold

Television, 1984 (Full Length)

This documentary follows the efforts of the New Zealand rowing eight to win gold at 1984’s Los Angeles Olympics. The eight, coached by the legendary Harry Mahon, had won the past two world champs and were expected to repeat the triumph of the 1972 Kiwi eight at Munich. Amongst training at home, the infamous six minutes of pain — the “erg test” — is featured; one of the most demanding trials in sport. The action then shifts to LA for the Olympic finals. The film offers a gripping insight into the extreme lengths the amateur athletes go to in their quest for gold.

Encounter - What Happens When You've Run to the Top (Peter Snell & John Walker)

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

This March 1976 Encounter item catches up on athlete Peter Snell while studying human performance at University of California, Davis — 12 years after his double Olympic triumph in Tokyo. When world champion mile runner John Walker turns up, Snell takes him for a jog, and puts Walker through his paces in the Human Performance Laboratory. The pair muse over life, sport, success, choosing your future, and which of them is the best. The master counsels his heir on the upcoming Montreal Olympics, after Walker expresses fear at becoming the “biggest failure in history".

The Golden Hour

Television, 2012 (Trailer)

This documentary tells the story of New Zealand sport’s ‘golden hour’, when on 2 September 1960 in Rome, two Arthur Lydiard-coached runners won Olympic gold: 21-year-old Peter Snell in the 800 metres, then Murray Halberg in the 5000 metres. The underdog tale mixes archive footage with recreations and candid interviews (Halberg talks about his battle with disability and doubt). The NZ Herald's Russell Baillie praised the result as “riveting” and “our Chariots of Fire”. It screened on TV prior to the 2012 London Olympics and was nominated for an International Emmy Award in 2013. 

Lovelock

Short Film, 1992 (Full Length)

Jack Lovelock won New Zealand’s first Olympic athletics gold medal. He did so in spectacular fashion, winning the 1500 metres at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In front of Hitler and 110,000 spectators, the famous ‘Lovelock kick’ unfurled into NZ’s sporting and collective consciousness: from Timaru to Oxford, to Berlin triumph. Yet Lovelock was an enigmatic achiever. In this short film, the race — the supremely judged apex of a sporting career — is contrasted with his mysterious and tragic death, in front of a train on the New York subway in 1949.