Through a colourful career that has spanned academics, politics and sport, Tuariki Delamere has certainly shown a knack for re-inventing himself.

His latest incarnation will manifest itself at this month's World Masters Games, where he will contest mainly throwing field events in the M 65-69 athletics.

Such a prospect would have seemed ridiculous back in his physical prime, when he represented New Zealand as a wiry long and triple jumper at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.

"I was just a skinny runt back then," he recalls. "But my knees don't like long jumping any more - it just hurts and the triple jump hurts even worse.


"These days, I'm a thrower - I'm way stronger than I was as a jumper."

Still, his sporting evolution has been no more unlikely than his claim to fame at that time - world record-holder for the somersault long jump.

In fact, Delamere, 65, still holds that distinction, since the revolutionary style was quickly deemed too dangerous and outlawed.

"I had had a brief chat with [future Olympic decathlon champion] Bruce Jenner, who was trying it out, and then took it to the mechanics professors at Washington State University," he reflects.

"When you jump, your foot's anchored on the ground longer than normal and you start to rotate, which is why long jumpers always jump upwards and somewhat backwards, otherwise they fall flat on their face.

"We decided to take that rotation to its natural conclusion, which was a somersault. I went out and practiced it into a pole vault pit and we worked out my feet were coming down close to Bob Beamon's world record, but I had no idea what I was doing.

"The first time I tried it in the sand, I ended up in hospital. I froze on take-off and didn't rotate far enough, landed on my shoulders and back, and strained the hell out of everything."

Jenner demonstrated the somersault long jump when he competed at the 1975 NZ Games and Delamere continued to develop the forward flip as part of his technique.


His official 7.79m personal best is still good enough for sixth on the NZ all-time rankings more than 40 years later, but he believes he only ever scratched the surface of its potential, likening it to the high jump's Fosbury Flop.

After turning professional, Delamere claims to have cleared eight metres, still without really nailing the landing.

Many years later, he heard the Russians had also been perfecting on the somersault and were planning to unveil it at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He had unwittingly blown their cover and got it outlawed first.

"I think it's a better way to jump," he insists. "The world record would now be about 31 feet [9.5 metres] with someone who knew what they're doing.

"It's way more spectacular and probably no more dangerous than, say, the pole vault."

Delamere was born in a military hospital in Papakura and was educated in Tauranga, where he was recognised as the top Maori student in New Zealand. He attended Washington State on an athletic scholarship, later served in the US Army and joined the staff at West Point.

He entered politics in the 1990s, defeating Sir Peter Tapsell for the Te Tai Rawhiti seat at the 1996 elections and became a member of the infamous "Tight Five" - the New Zealand First Maori MPs that formed a ruling coalition with the National Party.

Under this regime, Delamare held ministerial portfolios for immigration and Pacific Island Affairs, and was associate minister for finance and health, but he lost the immigration brief, after approving residency for Chinese businessman who invested in Maori development projects.

When New Zealand First began to splinter, he lost his seat in parliament at the 1999 elections and subsequently established his own Auckland-based immigration consultancy business.

Delamere hadn't competed in track and field for more than 20 years, when he was lured back into the sport three years ago.

"I was watching one of my grand-daughters high jumping out at Waitakere and there were some Masters guys there, throwing the shot. They talked me into it and I've been doing it ever since - it's great fun."

Early in his comeback, Delamere broke his leg during an out-of-control discus attempt, but his newfound enthusiasm could not be dampened. He has entered six events at the World Masters Games next week - discus, shot, hammer, javelin, throws pentathlon and high jump.

"What I like about it is you compete for yourself," he says. "I'd rather come last, but do my personal best, than win the national championship with a bad performance.

"It's about enjoyment first and it's competitive, but the competition is with myself. I'm not competing against anybody else, I'm competing against what I think I should be doing."

The World Masters Games 2017 track and field competition takes place from Sunday, April 23-Saturday, April 29 at The Trusts Arena, Henderson.