Athletics: Olympic legend receives Queen's gong

By Yvonne Tahana

Yvette Corlett. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Yvette Corlett. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Trailblazing Olympic champion Yvette Corlett admitted to a few nerves at receiving her Queen's honour yesterday, not unlike waiting for her gold medal at the Helsinki Games.

Now 81, Mrs Corlett was 23 when the country held its breath for her in 1952 as she double fouled efforts at the long jump, before taking gold at her last attempt.

Mrs Corlett, nee Williams, said she always knew she had it in her to beat the world's best.

"I guess I had the determination and I always rose to the occasion on important days. I always seemed to have the will to win."

She became the first New Zealand female to win gold at an Olympics and it would be 40 years before another athlete, Barbara Kendall, would repeat the feat.

Olympic success was followed by a 6.29m world record long jump in Gisborne in 1954 and in a notable career she won 21 national titles over five disciplines.

Mrs Corlett said she had "similar butterflies" waiting for Sir Anand Satyanand to present the honour, as she did waiting for her medal more than 50 years ago.

She was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics after years of supporting rising youngsters, serving on the selection panel for the Herald Junior Sports awards for 40 years and founding the Pakuranga Athletic Club.

"I was quite nervous for a while but Sir Anand made me feel at ease. I was very proud to get up there in front of my family."

- NZ Herald

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