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New-Zealand mystery...


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  • New-Zealand mystery...

    Most of us may remember these dominant milers
    from New-Zealand, like the 1976 1500M Gold John
    WALKER, or Rod DIXON, or Dick QUAX who were
    World-class champions through the mid-seventies.
    How can we explain New-Zealandians have
    completely disappeared from World podiums since
    this golden era?
    Was is about a guru-coach?
    Was it about a secrete magic potion?
    Or was it just about a very talented spontaneous
    Of course, we could ask the same question about
    British domination through the eighties (COE,
    OVETT, MOORCROFT, CRAM...) or champions from
    Finland in the early seventies...

  • #2
    Re: New-Zealand mystery...

    Could ask the same question about the Finns. New Zealand isn't exactly unique.


    • #3
      Re: New-Zealand mystery...

      Emerging world-class competitors emerge from the competition within their countries. If by some alignment of the stars several driven individuals who also have whatever God-given talnt is needed in that event, or those related events; under those circumstances you have athlete trying to match athlete, and the achievement can soar in those environments.

      I think the reason Americans have been so weak for so long in the middle distances is that the majority are competing for just a chance to win, but not to win. When everyone runs slow lap after lap, only to sprint at the end, you end up with mediocre times, and inadequate conditions to see PB times come down significantly over time.

      But if more than one, preferably three or more competitors are always looking to win in any way they think they can, including trying to run the field into the ground, then the climate exists for dramatic improvement over time.

      It's been the same way in tennis and other sports. When you have several people who aspire to be the very best, and who implement all of the prerequisite sacrifices to achieve the best, then you can have a truly special group in a country, such as the Kenyans today in the longer distance events.

      The reason the U.S. dominates in the sprints and relays has more to do with the depth of competition in the country than the absolute native talent of the individuals involved.

      Likewise in swimming, the U.S. racing culture is so advanced that anyone who rises to the top is almost always a threat to medal at the OG's.

      Just my .002.


      • #4
        Re: New-Zealand mystery...

        >Just my .002.<

        Aw, c'mon, ycn. You can give us your full .02.


        • #5
          Re: New-Zealand mystery...

          As per usual,satch will be direct. White guys have pretty much quit trying to be world class runners .


          • #6
            Re: New-Zealand mystery...

            No that I live here I have asked a number of coaches and old-timers this very same question. It seems those guys of the 60's and 70's came out of a culture of training that just plain worked and they all ran basically against each other having been inspired by Lovelock and Snell. There are many talented youngsters down here, but they get pulled by other sports. Two that grab a lot of would-be distance guys are Triathalon and Surf Lifesaving. Soccer is huge here and of course so is Rugby. On the female side, just about everyone grows up playing Netball, which is you don't know is kinf of a cross between Basketball and Team Handball. Now remember there are only 4 million people here. That's like two of the buroughs of New York or New Jersey from Jersey City to Newark. A lot of coaches still have teens running lots of miles and they don't last very long in the sport. I could go on. Like they have sent over 400 athletes to US Universities on Scholarship in the last twenty years and about a dozen have ever represented NZ in a Worlds or Olympics. Most do their four years get a job over there and quit Athletics.


            • #7
              Re: New-Zealand mystery...

              I was one of those Kiwis who fled to the USA (In 1970's). But I am still involved in the Sport here in NZ.
              The reasons for our demise are many and varied, however I offer the following as one reason.
              This appeared in the NZ Runner in 2001. (I was the Author of this piece)

              The Distance Running Middle Classes

              Over the last few months everyone who has an opinion about the demise of New Zealand Athletes and the ‘Poor showing’ at Sydney has had their pennies worth.
              However, I want to concentrate on the Men’s Middle and Long Distance Runners. Not the ‘Other stuff.’
              Brian Taylor’s excellent articles a few months ago were timely and he really hit the nail on the head regarding our current approach to training.
              What I want to do is back him up from a different angle.
              Thirty years ago ( 1971) New Zealand had 8 Milers in the top 75 in the world. When read as 11% of the total milers in the world, that looks pretty ‘Crash Hot’ for little old NZ.
              The eight (In ranked order) were : Dick Quax, Dick Tayler, Tony Polhill, Rod Dixon,
              Trevor ‘Suds” Sutherland, Jeff Mathews, Peter Moy and Rex Maddaford.
              However three of those athletes NEVER represented New Zealand at Olympic or Commonwealth Games.( Moy, Mathews and Sutherland).
              Those guys were part of a Group I call the “Middle Class” of New Zealand Running.
              Many ‘Old hands’ from the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and probably the 90’s could name a ton more people in this category.
              During that period of the 60’s through to the early 90’s our Sport had a huge, strong Middle class. They were the Grass Roots of our Harrier clubs who turned out week after week, year after year. They were also the Group who put in the “Hard Yards”. Lydiard fashion.
              Every club in this Country had a hard core of these Athletes. They kept the “system”
              How did they do that ?.
              To illustrate I need to break down the Middle Class into 3 sections:

              1. Upper Middle Class (UMC)
              2. Middle Class (MC)
              3. Lower Middle Class (LMC)

              The Upper Middle Class were the Guys who regularly ran in the top 3 to 12 in their Province. The Elite had to run hard and very well just to beat these guys. If the Elite faltered ( Which happened occasionally !!) they would get blown apart by the UMC.
              The Middle Class were always pushing the UMC. They were the guys Running their Heads off to make that club ‘A’ Team for a Major Road Relay or trying hard to nail that last place on a Provincial Team for Cross Country or Road Nationals.
              Once again if the UMC faltered they got ‘Done’.
              Lastly, The Lower Middle Class. Possibly the 60’s through 90’s equivalent to todays “Fun Runner”. Only they were totally Loyal to their clubs. Probably ‘Trained 4 to 6 times a week. Competed in everything from the Club “Handicap” Races to the Provincial Championship and every now and again “Ran a Cracker”.

              Each level kept the next “Honest”.

              Of course I have made this simplistic. I reality there was a ton of movement between the levels. Otherwise where would our “Elite” come from.

              However I believe we have lost that Middle Class. Where has it gone ?.
              First reaction is “New Sports” like Triathlons. Duathlons and Mountain Biking.
              Sure, they have to a certain extent.
              However I also believe that there were also issues like Work conditions changing.
              For the “Employed” the Employment Contracts Act had a devestating effect on people’s ability to compete (even train!) on weekends.
              For the “Employers”. Keeping a business open. That had the same effect as those who were Employed.
              Lastly. What I believe is the main reason we have lost our Middle Class. Many young people today do not want to spend a number of years developing into a top runner.
              They want it NOW !!.
              Consequently, they look for a Sport where success comes easier.
              When I see a current All Black do a 10 minute warmup. “Strideout” 6 X 200, jog 10 minutes and then go home. Who wants to be a Distance Runner ?.

              I feel unless we can do something like re-establishing another Middle Class, the “Elite” athletes of this Country will only ever be Mediocre on the World Stage.
              I know times have changed, But once we had the reputation for being “Hard Men” in this Sport. The Middle Classes ensured that 30 years ago.
              Do we have that reputation today ?, I doubt it.


              • #8
                Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                Well said KIWIVET. Your knowledge of the history of the sport here and the reasons for it's present state far eclipse my three years experience here. Thanks for that. But how did I do for a neophyte?


                • #9
                  Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                  Naw....the real reason....they are the best sailors on the world. They now dominate the "America's Cup". In the last America's Cup, held in Auckland, Kiwis were both defenders and challengers, the challengers being Kiwis dressed in Swiss clothing. The Swiss/Kiwis won and will defend the next time somewhere in Europe.

                  The big question is........who will be the challenger? My guess....another Kiwi team.


                  • #10
                    Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                    ...and the Kiwis also have the best Rugby players
                    in the World nowadays with their mythical All-
                    Black Team.


                    • #11
                      Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                      Plus they have 2 very strong ladies to keep them busy..... Ms Faumina and Ms Adams. They both can come back from Athens with a medal.


                      • #12
                        Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                        Give distance runners a break, they're coming through here in NZ. Nz are proably sending 2 1500m runners to the games. Plus Kim Smith from my club is running well (UNDERSTATEMENT!)in womans 5000metres at college in the USA. All the good NZ runnersend up at US colleges anyway. Just give them time.

                        Valerie is going to go all the way one day! I'm praying she will win Olympic or World champ gold sometime. She trains in my gym and is awesome! NZ hopes for the future will be her and possibly a few Decathletes coming through.


                        • #13
                          Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                          ...and the Kiwis also have the best Rugby players
                          in the World nowadays
                          >with their mythical All-
                          Black Team.>>>

                          Really? How come England are the world champions then?


                          • #14
                            Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                            They just had the best teamat the moment, but
                            not the best players, to my opinion.
                            Which doesn't mean their victory wasn't great...


                            • #15
                              Re: New-Zealand mystery...

                              All blacks are gonna smash pommie and brit lion butt. Represent!!!

                              Our journey is over, now it's time for some fun.