ARNST, [Richard] Jacob Diedrich
World champion sculler, cyclist, and marksman.
Richard Arnst was a son of Herman Arnst, of Hanover, Germany, who emigrated to New Zealand and, at the time of his son's birth on 25 November 1883, was farming at Taitapu near Christchurch. He adopted and retained the name Richard as a youth when he became a champion cyclist. At the age of 19 he competed in the Timaru to Christchurch road race, in which he gained fastest time in 1903. He then went to Australia and entered for the Melbourne-Warrnambool road race, which he won in 1904. Two years later he won the Sydney Thousand, an event worth £1,000. When he returned to New Zealand, J. H. Parker, a Christchurch outfitter, conceived the idea of Arnst becoming a champion sculler. Sir Heaton Rhodes, of Taitapu, headed a group of Canterbury people, including Dr H. T. J. Thacker, who provided funds to send him to Australia, where he was coached by George Downs. By the end of 1907 he was winning events from scratch. The following year he challenged William Webb for the world championship and defeated him on the Wanganui River on 15 December 1908, and again on 22 January 1909. He next defeated G. Welch at Akaroa on 4 April 1910, and Ernest Barry on the Zambesi River on 18 August 1910, an event sponsored by Sir Abe Bailey, the South African millionaire. Arnst continued to hold the title until 1912 when he lost it to Barry on the Thames. Nine years later he regained the title by default, and then defeated J. P. Hannan on the Wairau River on 12 June 1921, but lost it to Darcy Hadfield at Wanganui on 5 January 1922. Arnst then turned to gun club shooting and competed with success in New Zealand, England, and France. When he retired from world sport he took over a small farm near Pleasant Point, South Canterbury, where he died on 7 December 1953. Arnst was a fine sportsman, free from pettiness, and is one of the great figures in New Zealand sport. He was a man of splendid physique, with a keen eye and a superb sense of timing.
In 1911, while on a visit to Sydney, New South Wales, Arnst married Amy Williams, by whom he had one son.
by Oliver Arthur Gillespie, M.B.E., M.M. (1895–1960), Author.
Press (Christchurch) Jun 1921, Jan 1922; Timaru Herald, Jun 1921, Jan 1922.