We're counting down New Zealand's 25 greatest Olympians. Today, boardsailor Barbara Kendall.

• Gold: Windsurfing, Barcelona, 1992

One of the most enduring images from the 1992 Olympics is the sight of a beaming Barbara Kendall celebrating madly at the top of the podium.

At 24, the boardsailing great cemented her place in New Zealand Olympic history, becoming the first woman to win gold since Yvette Williams 40 years earlier.

Despite this, she was not even the first in her family to win Olympic gold. Her older brother Bruce had done so four years earlier in Seoul, adding to the bronze medal he picked up at the LA Games in 1984.


Kendall had almost given away hopes of emulating Bruce in winning the Olympic boardsailing competition when she broke her wrist earlier in the year.

Fortunately, the Olympic trials were delayed, giving her time to recover and prepare herself, often by training with Bruce and other top male competitors.

With a less than ideal build-up, Kendall went to Barcelona, where the women's boardsailing class was included in the Olympic programme for the first time, with few expectations.

The young Kiwi established a lead midway through the regatta, but the racing remained tight throughout, with Kendall needing a sixth place or better in the final race to secure the gold medal. She finished third to seal the deal comfortably.

The win kicked off a trifecta of medals for Kendall. She came close to retaining her Olympic title at Savannah during the 1996 Atlanta Games, but eventually had to concede to Lai-Shan Lee, of Hong Kong, after finishing placings of 2-3-6-1-10-5-5-6-2.

The Auckland boardsailor completed her set of Olympic medals by winning bronze in Sydney in 2000, becoming just the third Kiwi behind Mark Todd and Simon Dickie to win medals at three separate Olympics.

There was speculation Kendall might retire at that point, and when she and husband Shayne Bright had their first child, Samantha, in 2001, it seemed even more likely.

Instead Kendall came back to be as dominant as ever, regaining the world crown in 2002 (she had won the title previously in 1998 and 1999) in Thailand at the age of 36, and earning selection for her fourth successive Olympics with two subsequent second placings at world championships.

She should have been in the medal mix in Athens as well, but two devastating results, where she was ruled to have crossed the start line too soon, ultimately cost her. A look at her finishing placings shows just how costly those false starts were: 1-9-27-2-27-5-5-3-1-1-4.

"I definitely feel like I threw away a medal in Athens," said Kendall. "One of [the false starts] was my fault, the other wasn't. It was just about the only time in 15 years I wasn't in the top three at a world championship or Olympic event, so I was shattered."

It was that disappointment that may have been the motivation for Kendall to give it another crack in Beijing, qualifying for her fifth Olympic Games at the age of 40. She finished a creditable sixth at her final Olympic competition in 2008, eventually retiring in 2010 after 24 years at the top of her sport.

Biography: Barbara Kendall

Kendall, New Zealand's only gold medallist in Barcelona, became just the second Kiwi woman behind Yvette Williams in 1952 to win Olympic gold.

Has the full set of Olympic medals, having won silver in Atlanta and bronze in Sydney.

Became the first (and so far, only) New Zealand woman to compete in five Olympic Games when she attended the Beijing Games aged 40.

She was elected an IOC member in July 2011 and now sits on the IOC Athletes' Commission, Woman and Sport Commission and Sport and the Environment Commission.

How we did it

This list was drawn up by expert Herald and Radio Sport journalists from our team covering the Rio Olympics.

It wasn't easy, partly because of the number of fantastic feats over the last century or so and partly because of the difficulty of comparing performances across sports and eras.

The first ground rule was that only gold medallists would be considered. That was tough considering the likes of Nick Willis (silver, 2008), Dick Quax (silver, 1976), Paul Kingsman (bronze, 1988) and Bevan Docherty (silver and bronze, 2004 & 2008) provided some of our most memorable Olympic moments.

We also agreed potential success in Rio wouldn't be taken into account. The list was also restricted to the Summer Olympics, otherwise Annelise Coberger, our only Winter Olympics medallist may have featured quite prominently.

Each member of the panel wrote their own list before we came together to thrash it out five at a time. It was a head-scratcher, but in a good way because it was a celebration of success.

List so far

No 25: Alan Thompson
No 24: Norman Read
No 23: Ted Morgan

No 21: Paul MacDonald

No 20: Hamish Bond and Eric Murray

No 19: Rob Waddell
No 18: Bruce Kendall
No 17: Mahe Drysdale

No 16: Hamish Carter

No 15: Sir Murray Halberg
No 14: The 1976 men's hockey team
No 13: Sir John Walker
No 12: Ian Ferguson
No 11: Sarah Ulmer
No 10: Jack Lovelock
No 9: Blyth Tait