Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jack Lovelock – New Zealand’s First Olympic Gold

Jack Lovelock wins the 1500m at the Berlin Olympics, 1936

Jack (John Edward) Lovelock, 1910-1949, was New Zealand’s first athlete to win an Olympic gold medal.

At the 1936 Olympics, in front of a crowd of 120,000 and Adolf Hitler, Lovelock demonstrated his trademark ‘Lovelock kick’ to accelerate to the lead in the 1500m race with 300m to go. Carving out a 5m lead, the rest of the frontrunners were unable to catch him.

The race has come to be widely regarded as one of the greatest of races of the modern Olympics.

Lovelock’s time of 3:47.8 was a new world record, shattering that of 1904 and only being broken once since in 1960. Equivalent to a 4:04.8 mile, it showed that a sub 4 minute mile was possible.

Like many New Zealanders who find themselves propelled to fame, Lovelock showed a reticence in public, but in his diary of that day in 1936 he allowed himself a rare moment of ebullience: "It was undoubtedly the most beautifully executed race of my career, a true climax to 8 years of steady work, an artistic creation."

Lovelock brought a more scientific & psychological approach to training and competitive racing. For example, he kept detailed training and nutritional records and monitored his physiological condition. But this scientific approach did not curb or mask the fact that he clearly loved running.

He was to prove an inspiration to a lineage of New Zealand middle and long distance runners down through the twentieth century. Peter Snell, Murray Halberg and John Walker all went on to Olympic and Commonwealth Games successes.

Coupled with his athletic accomplishments, Lovelock had distinguished himself academically while growing up in New Zealand. A Rhodes Scholar, he studied medicine at Oxford University in the 1930s while also training for his athletic career.

Sadly, Lovelock’s life was short. Just days before his 40th birthday he complained of dizziness while at work at the Manhattan Hospital for Special Surgery. On his way home he collapsed and fell under a New York subway train and was killed instantly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wrong: Edward (Ted) Morgan was New Zealand's first Gold Medallist. Amsterdam 1928 Boxing-Welterweight.
However the first New Zealander to win Gold was Swimmer Malcolm Champion 4x200m Freestyle Relay in 1912 at Stocholm. But as he was part of a combined Australasia Team, his medal is not recognised as being a "New Zealand" Medal.