Barbara Kendall

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport

Barbara Kendall has always been a trailblazer. She ended a 40-year Olympic gold medal drought for New Zealand females in 1992 and later earned the full set of Games medals.

Kendall is the only female from this country to have competed at five Olympics, the last two as a mother.

And over the past 14 years, she has been an agent of change within the International Olympic Committee, as a strong voice for athletes and women.

That lifetime of work was recognised today, as the 51-year-old was made a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to sport.

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Kendall, who was honoured with an MBE in 1993, was thrilled with the news.

"To be recognised and honoured for all the work I've been doing over the past 14 or so years on the governance and leadership side of sport, with the IOC in and around Oceania and New Zealand, is wonderful," said Kendall.

"It's been a huge commitment. Some years, I was spending close to 130 days overseas, going to meetings, going to all sorts of things. It's been full-on but also good fun and I've learnt so much about the political side of the sport, and the governance side, it's been invaluable."

Kendall got on the IOC athletes' commission in 2005. She had been part of the New Zealand athletes' commission for a decade and at the time was a veteran of four Olympic Games but she found herself out of her depth.

"I had no idea what the IOC was about. As an athlete, you really don't understand how the big machine works," said Kendall.

"I didn't know what I was letting myself in for. [Daughter] Amy was only 3 months old, and I was breast feeding. It wasn't something that was seen and done around the IOC, that's partly why there were no women involved.

"They realised they had to change the way they did things if they wanted to have women in sport, especially younger women in sport.

"I remember sitting around the table at the first meeting, UN style, with microphones and interpreters and feeling completely out of my depth.

"At my first meeting, we weren't really encouraged to speak at all, but by the time I left [in 2016], we couldn't shut the athletes up."

Kendall progressed quickly, thanks to her proactive approach and supportive colleagues within Oceania.

"By the end of it, I was on 13 different working groups, commissions and executive boards all around the world," said Kendall. "They were amazing opportunities and we had some great achievements."

Kendall also still has fond memories of that gold in Barcelona, where she became the first New Zealand female at the top of the podium since long jumper Yvette Williams in 1952.

"It was massive," recalled Kendall. "[But] I had no idea what kind of impact that would have. It wasn't until that ticker tape parade up Queen Street that I realised my life was never going to be the same again."

She can still occasionally be spotted on the water, into wind-surf foiling, but is more likely to be watching her daughters sailing or playing water polo.

"It's been an amazing experience," said Kendall. "I just wanted to make things better for athletes and I am proud of what has been achieved."

Other sporting figures honoured

Lydia Ko

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to golf.

The Aucklander has a host of awards to her name - including the Halberg Supreme Award in 2013. But the achievement most sports fans would recognise is when Ko became the youngest golfer of either gender to become world No 1, in 2015.

Her impact has been amazing, and Time magazine listed Ko amongst the world's 100 most influential people in 2014. At just 21, her career is at a crossroad, her ranking having slipped to 14. She was so good, it is proving hard to live up to. As an ESPN writer put it: "She wasn't just a prodigy; it seemed she would rewrite the entire landscape of the LPGA."

Glenn Ashby

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sailing.

Poacher turned gamekeeper from a New Zealand point of view. The former Oracle coach, an Australian, joined Team New Zealand in 2010 and was skipper when they found glory by lifting the 2017 America's Cup in Bermuda. A glittering sailing career - often under the Australian flag - includes a host of world titles achieved by the multihull master.

Luisa Avaiki

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to league.

The Warriors' first coach in the new NRL women's competition, following a brilliant career as player-captain with Richmond, Auckland and the triple-World Cup winning Kiwi Ferns. She has also represented Samoa.

Joelle King

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to squash.

Has kept squash on the Kiwi sports map since turning professional in 2004, and had a brilliant 2018 Commonwealth Games, winning two golds. The world No 4, from Cambridge, has also been recognised for her work with young children, clubs and schools.

Roly Crichton

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Paralympic sport.

The former competitor is best known as coach of Sophie Pascoe, Canterbury's Paralympic swimming superstar. But his coaching work with others goes back 20 years.

Georgina Salter

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to netball

Salter was given the honour posthumously following her deeath early this year. She was involved with netball as a player, coach and administrator for a number of decades.

The former Silver Fern coached the New Zealand under-21 team to two World Youth Cups (1992 and 2000) as well as the Otago Rebels to the inaugural National League title. For the duration of her coaching she has mentored provincial and international umpires. She has also encouraged and coached primary and secondary school netball for more than 40 years.