Record jump here crowned remarkable career

JUMPING INTO HISTORY: Yvette Williams sets a new long jump world record at Childers Road Reserve in 1954. Picture courtesy of Tairawhiti Museum

MEMORIES came flooding back of her world record set at Childers Road Reserve when The Gisborne Herald contacted Yvette Corlett (Williams) 15 years ago on the 50th anniversary of that day — February 20, 1954.

She died on Saturday aged 89.

Williams, a superstar after winning long jump gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, flew 20 feet 7½ inches (6.28m) at a specially built pit at Childers Road Reserve to break the world record held by the legendary Fanny Blankers-Koen.

The Dutch athlete who, as a 30-year-old mother, won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, had died only the month before The Herald contacted Corlette in Auckland in February 2004.

A large crowd was on hand at Childers Road Reserve and went ‘‘hush’’ as Williams began her run, The Gisborne Herald reported back in 1954.

“The silence persisted as Williams hit the take-off board perfectly and launched herself into the air on the day which was the crown of her great career.”

“In perfect form, she sailed through the quiet air,’’ said The Herald.

The pit at Childers Road Reserve was marked with a green flag depicting her own New Zealand record, and a red flag for the world mark.

“After she had landed and it could be seen, even from the packed stand (in which her mother and father shared the tenseness of the occasion), that she landed beyond the far-off red flag, wave after wave of cheers and hand-clapping burst from the spectators.”

Other competitors ran up to Williams and embraced her.

There was “wave after wave of cheering”, with Mayor Harry Barker calling for three cheers, and Corlett jumping in delight and later sharing an emotional hug with her father.

She capped the historic day by breaking her New Zealand record in the shot put with a throw of 42ft 7¾in (13m).

The physical education teacher never competed in Gisborne again, although she passed through when camping with her family.

Corlett told The Herald that she “hadn’t really thought about it” but recalled the excitement and hype, including a huge crowd, live radio coverage and the presence of her mother and father, whom the Gisborne Amateur Athletics Club had specially flown in from Dunedin for the occasion.

“Fortunately the weather was good and the wind wasn’t blowing too strong,” said Corlett, who had returned to Gisborne after going close to the record the previous month while doing a tour with her coach.

Corlett’s record also includes gold in the long jump at the 1950 Empire Games in Auckland, gold in the long jump, discus and shot put at the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver, and 21 national titles in shot put, discus, javelin, long jump and 80m hurdles.

Had the modern-day heptathlon been part of the Games, she would certainly have added to her international successes.

Corlett was the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic gold medal and her world record in Gisborne made her the first New Zealand woman to officially break a world athletics record.

She was coached by Jim Bellwood, a returned serviceman and prisoner of war, and modelled her technique on Jesse Owens.

She was “sportsman” of the year in 1950 and 1952, New Zealand sports champion of the 1950 to 1959 decade and was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

Corlett also represented her country in indoor basketball, while her younger brother Roy won the decathlon at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.

MEMORIES came flooding back of her world record set at Childers Road Reserve when The Gisborne Herald contacted Yvette Corlett (Williams) 15 years ago on the 50th anniversary of that day — February 20, 1954.

She died on Saturday aged 89.

Williams, a superstar after winning long jump gold medal at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, flew 20 feet 7½ inches (6.28m) at a specially built pit at Childers Road Reserve to break the world record held by the legendary Fanny Blankers-Koen.

The Dutch athlete who, as a 30-year-old mother, won four gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics, had died only the month before The Herald contacted Corlette in Auckland in February 2004.

A large crowd was on hand at Childers Road Reserve and went ‘‘hush’’ as Williams began her run, The Gisborne Herald reported back in 1954.

“The silence persisted as Williams hit the take-off board perfectly and launched herself into the air on the day which was the crown of her great career.”

“In perfect form, she sailed through the quiet air,’’ said The Herald.

The pit at Childers Road Reserve was marked with a green flag depicting her own New Zealand record, and a red flag for the world mark.

“After she had landed and it could be seen, even from the packed stand (in which her mother and father shared the tenseness of the occasion), that she landed beyond the far-off red flag, wave after wave of cheers and hand-clapping burst from the spectators.”

Other competitors ran up to Williams and embraced her.

There was “wave after wave of cheering”, with Mayor Harry Barker calling for three cheers, and Corlett jumping in delight and later sharing an emotional hug with her father.

She capped the historic day by breaking her New Zealand record in the shot put with a throw of 42ft 7¾in (13m).

The physical education teacher never competed in Gisborne again, although she passed through when camping with her family.

Corlett told The Herald that she “hadn’t really thought about it” but recalled the excitement and hype, including a huge crowd, live radio coverage and the presence of her mother and father, whom the Gisborne Amateur Athletics Club had specially flown in from Dunedin for the occasion.

“Fortunately the weather was good and the wind wasn’t blowing too strong,” said Corlett, who had returned to Gisborne after going close to the record the previous month while doing a tour with her coach.

Corlett’s record also includes gold in the long jump at the 1950 Empire Games in Auckland, gold in the long jump, discus and shot put at the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver, and 21 national titles in shot put, discus, javelin, long jump and 80m hurdles.

Had the modern-day heptathlon been part of the Games, she would certainly have added to her international successes.

Corlett was the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic gold medal and her world record in Gisborne made her the first New Zealand woman to officially break a world athletics record.

She was coached by Jim Bellwood, a returned serviceman and prisoner of war, and modelled her technique on Jesse Owens.

She was “sportsman” of the year in 1950 and 1952, New Zealand sports champion of the 1950 to 1959 decade and was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

Corlett also represented her country in indoor basketball, while her younger brother Roy won the decathlon at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica.

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andrea jahnke - 9 days ago
Go Gizzy all athletes, still train on grass fields. Hastings we have to travel to for competition, the real deal today. Why can't Gisborne supply a true field, for our up and coming athletics? Come on Gizzy, smell the roses. This community has has had many greats. Play the tune arise.

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