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One of many . . . Runner Jack Lovelock is one of many Olympic athletes with Timaru links. PHOTO: ALLIED PRESS FILES

by Chris Tobin

Just before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, The New Zealand Herald newspaper published a series of articles to decide which was New Zealand’s top Olympic town.

Timaru placed third behind Whanganui and Hastings, although it could now be further up the list.

Ashburton was seventh and Christchurch ninth. The method adopted was not scientific and recognised athletes who had just been born in a town and not grown up there.

Using this criteria Timaru, by a quirk of fate, could lay claim to gold medal-winning swimmer Danyon Loader who was born in Timaru but grew up in Dunedin.

Also on the list of Timaru medallists was 1936 Berlin Olympic 1500m gold medallist Jack Lovelock, who was born at Crushington near Reefton and grew up in Temuka and Fairlie before becoming a boarder at Timaru Boys’ High School.

Timaru’s other Olympic medallists on the list had stronger local credentials.

Rower Les O’Connell, an old boy of St Patrick’s High School in Timaru (now Roncalli College), won a gold medal as part of the coxless four at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Cyclist Marc Ryan, a Timaru Boys’ High School old boy, and 4000m pursuit bronze medallist at the Beijing (2008) and London (2012) Olympics, spent almost his entire career in Timaru.

At the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympics, two other medallists joined the list which could have bumped Timaru ahead of Hastings to No2. They were bronze medallist shot putter Tom Walsh and trap shooting silver medallist Natalie Rooney, who could consider herself more Waimate than Timaru.