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Yvette Williams, New Zealand's first female Olympic gold medallist, dies aged 89

1952 Olympic gold medallist Yvette Williams has died, age 89.

1 NEWS can confirm Williams, who became the first woman to win a gold medal for New Zealand when she won the women's long jump in Helsinki, died last night.

Williams won the gold medal by setting a new Olympic record 6.24m - 1cm shorter than Fanny Blankers-Koen's world record of the time.

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Williams, NZ’s first female Olympic gold medallist, was also considered a champion for women’s sport and athletics. Source: 1 NEWS

She also has four Commonwealth Games gold medals to her name as well, winning the 1950 long jump gold in Auckland - a title she defended four years later in Vancouver while also winning the discus and shot put.

The Otago Girls' High School alumni was just as dominant domestically, winning seven national titles in the long jump from 1948 to 1954 as well.

Williams also shone in other areas of athletics, winning national titles in the shot put (1947-1954), discus (1951-1954), javelin (1950) and 80m hurdles (1954).

She also represented New Zealand in basketball.

After retiring in 1954, Williams wrapped up her stellar year by marrying Buddy Corlett, a New Zealand basketball representative, in December.

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.

Williams' sporting achievements were recognised in the 1953 New Year's Honours list where she was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services in women's athletics. She was later appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics in the 2011 New Year Honours.

Williams was also named the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year twice in 1950 and 1952 before she was inducted into the New Zealand Hall of Fame in 1990.

Athletics New Zealand named her the Athlete of the Century on their 100th anniversary in 1987 as well.

Williams' legacy will live on through the the Yvette Williams Scholarship, which the New Zealand Olympic Committee established in 2013 to assist young athletes displaying both exceptional talent and need.

Yvette Williams.
Yvette Williams. Source: NZOC


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