Looking back at the history of sports

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Looking back in time can throw up some surprising facts that one can only wonder at in the modern day.

The annuals of sport throw up plenty of little known facts, such as Tug Of War (1900 - 1908) Cricket (1900) and Lacrosse (1904 & 1908) were Olympic sports and that the standing high jump, triple jump and long jump were once Olympic field events.

In the 1960's, some of the world’s best track athletes would come to New Zealand during the European off-season to compete. They were drawn here by the likes of Olympic champions Peter Snell and Murray Halberg and Olympic bronze medalist John Davies.

Sideline Sid, who was living in the South Waikato at the time, can still remember the publicity and hype of an amazing track meeting staged at Tokoroa, on January 6 1965.

Hosted by the Tokoroa Track Club, the event attracted athletic super-stars in Kip Keino (1968 Olympic 1500 metre Champion) and Australian Ron Clarke amongst other world class runners, to the grass surface in Tokoroa.

Keino ran like the wind to thrill the large crowd at the athletic backwater, stopping the clock at a sizzling 3.56.9, which wasn't that far off Frances Michael Jazy's world record of 3.53.6 set in 1965.

Future generations of Kiwi sports fans may marvel in decades to come, when they discover one of the best known tennis tournaments in the world came to the Western Bay of Plenty early in the new millennium.

The Davis Cup came to town on February 10-12 2012, when New Zealand squared off with Uzbekistan at Baypark.

The Davis Cup is the premier international team event in men’s tennis.

It's run by the International Tennis Federation and is contested annually in a knockout format.

The competition began in 1900, as a challenge between Great Britain and the United States, while in 2016 some 135 nations entered teams in the competition.

The Baypark Davis Cup event was an Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 elimination tournament, which also included India, Korea, Chinese Taipei, China and Australia. At stake for the winners was a place in the World Group playoffs.

The New Zealand representatives were Michael Venus, Daniel King-Turner, Artem Sitak and Rubin Statham.

While the Kiwi players were little known in world tennis, Michael Venus went on to become a highly successful doubles player. Partnered with American Ryan Harrison, the pair won the 2017 French Open doubles and Venus has also been a Grand Slam finalist at the 2017 US Open (mixed doubles) and 2018 Wimbledon (doubles).

New Zealand can claim some fame in the Davis Cup, being part of Australasia who won early editions in 1907, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1914 and 1919.

A little known fact is that Australasia defeated USA 4 nil at Lancaster Park in Christchuch in 1911.

A key member of the first four Australasian Davis Cup wins, was New Zealander Anthony Wilding, who won Wimbledon four times in 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913 before being killed in action during WW1.

For the record, New Zealand lost the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan 3-2, after losing both singles on day one.


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