In New Zealand we love our sports. While we might be most globally known for our Rugby, we consistently perform quite well in Netball, Hockey, Rowing, Golf, Surfing, Underwater Hockey, Polo, Motorcross, Car racing and of course the Adventure Racing and distance/endurance events. Kiwis often considered to “punch above their weight” when it comes to sport.
What is the secret to the tenacious spirit and never dying spirit? We are still asking this today, but over time there have been some really unique and special sporting moments in New Zealand’s History.
While Rugby remains the most popular spectator sport in New Zealand, golf is the most popular participation sport, with more golf courses in New Zealand per capita of population, than any other country in the world. Basketball is poised to have the highest participation among youth in 2018, surpassing rugby. This might have something to do with the success of Steven Adams.
Here are some really interesting facts about sport in New Zealand. Most notably we have the highest Olympic Gold Medals per capita than anywhere else on the planet!
New Zealand has more golf swings than they do rugby balls. Measured by club memberships, golf is the most popular sport by participation in New Zealand, followed by netball.
Perhaps the reason kiwis have an undying adventurous spirit is the proximity to the ocean? No part of New Zealand is more than 128km from the sea.
Maybe it’s the amount of untouched natural habitat that there is to explore? More rainbow trout in the 2kg to 3kg category are caught annually in New Zealand than in the rest of the world put together. What is perhaps inaccessible by most of the world, kiwis have on their doorstep and have become adept at the outdoors and developed quite strong physicality. The farming community often produces some phenomenal athletes as well, less than 5 per cent of the population of New Zealand is human – the rest are animals. This is one of the highest ratios of animals to humans in the world.
Sometimes it’s probably just good genes. In the 1920’s Olympic games, 15-year old swimmer Violet Walrond became New Zealand’s first female Olympian, but couldn’t leave her accommodation unless to compete or attend team functions. (Source) Speaking of genetics, there are quite a few instances of siblings (in Rugby and Rowing, Shot put and Basketball) being quite successful at the international level. Some notable sporting families in recent history (just to name a few) are:
- Barrett Brothers- all rugby players, 3 brothers to take the field for the All Blacks as well as a father who represented at the provincial level
- The Adams family – Steven and Valerie. Steven playing NBA Basketball and Valerie with her success in Shotput.
- Franks Brothers – both rugby players, and All Blacks
- Whitelock Brothers – Rugby players and All Blacks
- Evers-Swindell sisters – Rowing success at the international level
We don’t take our selves overly serious, so sometimes the New Zealand tenacious spirit is directed into unusual channels. We also broke a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest tape ball. The ball, which weighs 53kg and has a circumference of more than 2.5m, was made by winding Scotch tape continually around itself.
Along the same lines of not taking ourselves too seriously, we also have a tendency to invent sports that are a bit too crazy for most people. (Source)
1) Bungy Jumping which wasInvented in 1986 by A J Hackett. Bungy jumping is New Zealand’s most famous sporting export after the All Blacks. A J’s new sport went commercial two years later when he started charging brave tourists to repeat the trick in Queenstown.
The idea of encasing tourists in a transparent ball was first conceived in 1994 by Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers who opened the first permanent zorbing site in Rotorua in 1997.
3) Jet Boating As with Bungy Jumping, Queenstown is the capital of jet boating. The rapids of the fast flowing Shotover River add to the exhilaration of the ride. The Jet Boat engine is uniquely New Zealand as it’s rivers are constantly changing and New Zealanders needed a way to travel by water that didn’t require a certain depth in the same way that an outboard motor requires.
4) Fly by Wire again invented in Queenstown where Kiwi lunacy literally takes to the skies. This unique ride – there is only one in the world – it is the nearest most of us will get to piloting a jet plane. Suspended from a steel cable bolted into the sides of a gorge the six minute ride accelerates to three G’s and is capable of reaching speeds of over 100mph, making fly by wire the world’s fastest ride.
We’ve got a long history of great courageous athletes and adventurers. With people like Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mount Everest in 1953, was a New Zealander and Ernest Shackleton who captained 3 expeditions to Antarctic. Some of that tenacious New Zealand spirit also shows up in the world of inventions, as many parallels have been drawn between sport and business and the spirit required to boldly discover new inventions. Baron Ernest Rutherford, the first person in the world to split the atom in 1919, was also a New Zealander. Maybe it’s because New Zealand is the first to see the new day? Maybe it’s that the adventurous spirit of those that first settled here remains alive and well? Maybe there is something in the glacial water that supplies many New Zealanders especially in the South Island? Maybe it’s just good genes? Regardless, we know that Kiwis love their sport, will continue to love their sport and will probably invent a few more and probably continue to out perform their large nation counterparts.