NZ’s first winter Olympian

01/03/2018

The ODT writes about the first New Zealander to compete in the Winter Olympics:

Herbie Familton, who died in May 2002, aged 74, was one of three Kiwis who represented their country at the 1952 games in Oslo, Norway.

Despite having a broken thumb, Oamaru-born Herbert competed in the giant slalom and finished in 77th place, the highest finisher in the New Zealand team.

Selected as a travelling reserve, he replaced team captain Roy McKenzie, who was forced to withdraw through injury.

The 2m-long wooden skis he used at the Olympics were given to the North Otago Museum in 2002, probably by his family after he died, curator of collections Chloe Searle said. . . 

Herbie’s son, Herb Familton, who lives in Christchurch, said while his father did not speak of his Olympic experience often, it was clear he was proud of his achievement.

”He did talk about it a little bit, but not a lot. He talked about how good the Europeans were and that he did some training in Austria beforehand. He knew they would have to do well and perform well because the Europeans were pretty good. He always said he had beaten the Lebanese and the Australians, which gave him some great satisfaction.

”Skiing in New Zealand, particularly then, was a real novelty. People from overseas didn’t realise people could ski in New Zealand at all. From the games on, the ski industry in New Zealand developed quite a lot.”

Herb said his father, also a keen tennis player, would wear his New Zealand Olympic team blazer when he went to play tennis, a sport he played well into his 40s.

Herbert skied regularly until 2000, primarily at Coronet Peak, and also at Awakino Skifield near Kurow, which he helped develop. . . 

Herbie was also a musician who played in the Oamaru Operatic Society orchestra for years.

He used to come out to our farm to gather fire wood and delighted in blowing up stumps with explosives he’d mixed in a food processor at home.

 


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