In 1910, in order to be eligible for representation at the Olympic Games, the New Zealand Amateur Swimming Association (NZASA) joined the world governing body, Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA).
Swimmers have represented New Zealand at every Olympic Games since 1912, except those of 1932, 1936 and 1960, and the boycotted games of 1980.
First female Olympian
Although she did not win a medal, Violet Walrond has a special place in New Zealand Olympic swimming history. At the age of 15 the Auckland schoolgirl competed in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, becoming New Zealand’s first female Olympian. She placed fifth in the 100-metre freestyle. Later she achieved wins over top Australians including an Olympic silver medallist, but she retired before the 1924 Olympics on orders from her father and coach, Cecil.
Olympic medal winners
Several New Zealand swimmers have reached Olympic finals, but only five have won medals. In 1912, in Stockholm, Malcolm Champion won gold as a member of the Australasian 4 x 200-metre relay team. In 1952, at Helsinki, Jean Stewart won bronze in the 100-metre backstroke. At Seoul in 1988 Paul Kingsman and Anthony Mosse secured bronze medals – Kingsman in the 200-metre backstroke and Mosse in the 200-metre butterfly. Danyon Loader won silver in the 200-metre butterfly at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, then went on to win two golds – in the 200-metre and 400-metre freestyle – at Atlanta in 1996.
Those who have narrowly missed Olympic medals include Rebecca Perrott in the 400-metre freestyle in 1976, Gary Hurring in the 100-metre backstroke in 1984, Philippa Langrell in the 800-metre freestyle in 1992, Moss Burmester in the 200-metre butterfly in 2008 and Lauren Boyle in the 800-metre freestyle in 2012. All these swimmers finished fourth in their finals.
Empire and Commonwealth Games
New Zealand has selected a swimming team for every Empire and Commonwealth Games.
The country’s first medallist was Gordon Bridson, who won silver in the 440- and 1,500-yard freestyle events at the Empire Games in Ontario, Canada, in 1930.
Gold was first won at the 1950 games in Auckland by the men’s 4 x 220-yard relay team of Lyall Barry, Buddy (Frederick Ross) Lucas, Noel Chambers and Michael Amos. Lucas also won two bronze medals in individual events in 1950, and relay silver at the 1954 games in Vancouver.
Also at Vancouver, Jack Doms became the first New Zealand recipient of an individual gold medal when he won the 220-yard breaststroke.
Butterfly exponent David Gerrard won gold in the 220-yard event at Kingston, Jamaica, in 1966.
Further Commonwealth gold medals have been won by these swimmers:
- 1974: Jaynie Parkhouse (800-metre freestyle)
- 1974: Mark Treffers (400-metre individual medley)
- 1978: Gary Hurring (200-metre backstroke)
- 1978: Rebecca Perrott (200-metre freestyle)
- 1986: Sylvia Hume (100-metre backstroke)
- 1986 and 1990: Anthony Mosse (200-metre butterfly)
- 1990: Anna Simcic (200-metre backstroke)
- 1994: Danyon Loader (200-metre butterfly)
- 2006: Moss Burmester (200-metre butterfly)
- 2014: Sophie Pascoe (para-sport 100-metre breaststroke and para-sport 200-metre individual medley); Lauren Boyle (400-metre freestyle)
- 2018: Sophie Pascoe (para-sport 100-metre breaststroke and para-sport 200-metre individual medley).
Jack Doms was fortunate to be in the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games team. The Olympic and British Empire Games Association did not think he was a likely medallist and decided he would only be selected if the NZASA contributed £500. The money was donated by the people of Waikato, and Doms repaid them with a gold medal-winning performance.
World Short Course Championships
At the 1995 FINA World Swimming Championships in Rio de Janeiro, the New Zealand 4 x 100-metre medley relay team of Jon Winter, Paul Kent, Trent Bray and Guy Callaghan won New Zealand’s first world championships gold medal. Both Bray and Kent also won silver medals in their individual events, making this New Zealand’s most successful world championships result.
In Manchester in 2008 Moss Burmester was the first New Zealander to win a gold medal in an individual event by touching first in the 200-metre butterfly. Two years earlier he had finished second in the same event in Shanghai. In 2012 in Istanbul Lauren Boyle won the 800-metre freestyle.