Yvette Williams

Last updated

Yvette Corlett
Yvette Williams 1954b.jpg
Williams in 1954
Personal information
Birth nameYvette Winifred Williams
Born(1929-04-25)25 April 1929
Dunedin, New Zealand
Died13 April 2019(2019-04-13) (aged 89)
Auckland, New Zealand
Height1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) [1] [2]
Charles Armistice Corlett
(m. 1954;died 2015)
Relatives Roy Williams (brother)
CountryNew Zealand
Sport Track and field
Coached by Jim Bellwood
Achievements and titles
National finalsLong jump champion (1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954)
Shot put champion (1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954)
Discus champion (1951, 1952, 1953, 1954)
Javelin champion (1950)
80 m hurdles champion (1954)
Personal best(s)200 m – 25.0 (1951)
LJ – 6.28 m (1954)
SP – 13.96 m (1954)
DT – 47.85 m (1954) [1] [3]

Yvette Winifred Corlett CNZM MBE (née Williams, 25 April 1929 – 13 April 2019) was a New Zealand track-and-field athlete who was the first woman from her country to win an Olympic gold medal and to hold the world record in the women's long jump. Williams was named "Athlete of the Century" on the 100th anniversary of Athletics New Zealand, in 1987. [1]

Track and field is a sport which includes athletic contests established on the skills of running, jumping, and throwing. The name is derived from the sport's typical venue: a stadium with an oval running track enclosing a grass field where the throwing and some of the jumping events take place. Track and field is categorized under the umbrella sport of athletics, which also includes road running, cross country running, and race walking.

Long jump track and field event

The long jump is a track and field event in which athletes combine speed, strength and agility in an attempt to leap as far as possible from a take off point. Along with the triple jump, the two events that measure jumping for distance as a group are referred to as the "horizontal jumps". This event has a history in the Ancient Olympic Games and has been a modern Olympic event for men since the first Olympics in 1896 and for women since 1948.

Athletics New Zealand

Athletics New Zealand (ANZ) is the national governing body for athletics in New Zealand. This includes responsibility for Track and field, cross country running, road running and racewalking.


Early life

Williams was born on 25 April 1929 in Dunedin. [4] She grew up there and attended Otago Girls' High School. [5] While at high school, Williams played several sports, making the top netball team and playing for Otago and the South Island. [4] Williams also represented Otago, the South Island and New Zealand (1950, 1953–55) in basketball. [5] [6]

Dunedin City in Otago, New Zealand

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago region. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland.

Otago Girls High School

Otago Girls' High School (OGHS) is a secondary school in Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand. It was opened 6 February 1871, after a long campaign by Learmonth Whyte Dalrymple. It is reputedly the oldest girls state-run secondary school in the Southern Hemisphere and the sixth oldest of its type in the world.

Basketball team sport played on a court with baskets on either end

Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball through the defender's hoop while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three. After a foul, timed play stops and the player fouled or designated to shoot a technical foul is given one or more one-point free throws. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but if regulation play expires with the score tied, an additional period of play (overtime) is mandated.

Athletics career

Williams joined the Otago Athletic Club in early 1947, mainly for social reasons. [2] Two months later, she came to national attention when she won the shot put at the New Zealand athletics championships. [7] She went on to win 21 national titles across 5 disciplines: shot put (1947–54), javelin (1950), discus (1951–54), long jump (1948–54) and the 80 m hurdles (1954). With 21 New Zealand titles, she is the joint second-most successful New Zealand female athlete at that level, with Beatrice Faumuina and Melissa Moon, behind Val Young (35 titles). [8]

Beatrice Roini Liua Faumuina, ONZM is a former New Zealand discus thrower.

Melissa Moon long-distance runner from Wellington, New Zealand

Melissa Moon is a long-distance runner from Wellington, New Zealand. She is a two time World Mountain Running champion and has won 21 New Zealand athletics titles over her career. In 2001, she was named New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year. In 2008, she was named as one of the JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP).

Valerie Young New Zealand shot putter and discus thrower

Valerie Isobel Marie Young is a former athlete from New Zealand. She competed at the 1958, 1962, 1966, and 1974 Commonwealth Games, and won seven medals in the shot put and discus throw. She retired after the 1966 games to have a family, but went back into training when the 1974 games were allocated to Christchurch. She also competed at the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Summer Olympics, and went to the 1976 and 1984 games as an official (chaperone). She placed fourth in the shot put in 1960 and 1964, and fifth in 1956.

Jim Bellwood, who had moved to Dunedin in late 1947 or early 1948, became her trainer. When Bellwood moved to Auckland in 1952 to teach at Avondale College, [9] Williams followed, boarding with an aunt and uncle in Devonport. [5]

James Charles Bellwood was a New Zealand labourer, physical education instructor and sports coach.

Avondale College, Auckland

Avondale College is a state coeducational secondary school located in the central Auckland, New Zealand, suburb of Avondale. With a roll of 2773 students from Years 9–13, it is one of the largest schools in New Zealand.

Devonport, New Zealand suburb of Auckland, New Zealand

Devonport is a harbourside suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. It is located on the North Shore, at the southern end of a peninsula that runs southeast from near Lake Pupuke in Takapuna, forming the northern side of the Waitematā Harbour. East of Devonport lies North Head, the northern promontory guarding the mouth of the harbour.

Controversially left out of the New Zealand team for the 1948 Olympic Games in London, [2] Williams won the long jump title at the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland. [10] Her winning leap of 19 feet 4 58 inches (5.91 m) [11] broke the national, Empire Games, and British Empire records. [12] At the same competition, she also won the silver medal in the women's javelin, [7] with a throw of 124 feet 6 34 inches (37.97 m). [13]

New Zealand at the 1948 Summer Olympics

New Zealand competed at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England. Seven competitors, six men and one woman, took part in eight events in five sports. New Zealand was one of 22 nations that did not win any medals.

1950 British Empire Games 4th edition of the British Empire Games

The 1950 British Empire Games was the fourth edition of what is now called the Commonwealth Games. It was held in Auckland, New Zealand between 4 and 11 February 1950, after a 12-year gap from the third edition of the games. The main venue was Eden Park, although the closing ceremonies were held at Western Springs Stadium, see New Zealand at the 1950 British Empire Games. The fourth games were originally awarded to Montreal, Quebec, Canada and were to be held in 1942 but were cancelled due to World War II.

In 1951 Williams jumped 20 feet 1 38 inches (6.13 m) at a meet in Melbourne, [2] the third-best distance ever by a woman at that time, increased her New Zealand shot put record, and also became the New Zealand discus record holder. [12]

Melbourne City in Victoria, Australia

Melbourne is the capital and most populous city of the Australian state of Victoria, and the second most populous city in Australia and Oceania. Its name refers to an urban agglomeration of 9,992.5 km2 (3,858.1 sq mi), comprising a metropolitan area with 31 municipalities, and is also the common name for its city centre. The city occupies much of the coastline of Port Phillip bay and spreads into the hinterlands towards the Dandenong and Macedon ranges, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. It has a population of approximately 4.9 million, and its inhabitants are referred to as "Melburnians".

At the 1952 New Zealand championships, Williams became the first woman in history to jump over 20 feet (6.10 m) more than once, winning the long jump title with a distance of 20 feet 7 34 inches (6.29 m), but the distance was not recognised as a world record as it was wind-assisted. [12] Also in 1952 she recorded a score of 4219 points in the pentathlon, setting a New Zealand record that stood for 10 years. [12]

Williams won the gold medal in the long jump at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki; [7] her winning distance of 6.24 m was a new Olympic record and 1 cm short of Fanny Blankers-Koen's world record set in 1943. Also at Helsinki, Williams finished in sixth place in the shot put and 10th in the discus throw. [12]

In February 1954, Williams broke the women's long jump world record at Gisborne, New Zealand, with a leap of 6.28 metres. [10] Later that year she travelled to Vancouver for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, winning gold medals in the long jump, discus, and shot put, [10] all with Empire Games record performances, [12] and finishing sixth in the 80 m hurdles. [7] She announced her retirement from athletic competition in November 1954. [14] At the time she ranked number one in world track and field history in the long jump, fifth in the pentathlon, 12th in the discus throw and 19th in the shot put. [12]

Personal life

Williams married Buddy Corlett, a member of the national basketball team, in Auckland on 11 December 1954. [10] [15] The couple had four children, including national basketball representative Neville Corlett; Auckland provincial rugby union player Peter Corlett, and Karen Corlett, who represented New Zealand in rhythmic gymnastics at the 1977 world championships. [16] Williams' younger brother, Roy Williams, won the decathlon at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. [1]

Buddy Corlett died on 9 May 2015. [17] Williams died in Auckland on 13 April 2019. [4]

Honours and awards

Corlett, after her investiture as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit by the governor-general, Sir Anand Satyanand, in 2011 Yvette Corlett CNZM investiture.jpg
Corlett, after her investiture as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit by the governor-general, Sir Anand Satyanand, in 2011

In the 1953 New Year Honours, Williams was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services in women's athletics. [18] She was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics in the 2011 New Year Honours. [19]

Williams was twice named the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year, for 1950 and 1952. [5] She was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990. [20] In 2000, she was voted Otago Sportsperson of the Century. [21] Sports writer Peter Heidenstrom, author of the book Athletes of the Century, rates her as New Zealand's top athlete of the 20th century. [5]

The "Yvette Williams Retirement Village" in the Dunedin suburb of Roslyn is named in her honour. [22] In 2013, the New Zealand Olympic Committee, in association with the Glenn Family Foundation, established the Yvette Williams Scholarship, to assist young athletes displaying both exceptional talent and need. [23]

See also

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Preceded by
Flag of the Netherlands.svg Fanny Blankers-Koen
Women's Long Jump World Record Holder
20 February 1954 – 18 November 1955
Succeeded by
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Galina Vinogradova