Catch up on Scratched, The Spinoff’s video series celebrating New Zealand sporting heroes who never got their due – but whose legacies deserve to be in lights.
Ruia Morrison: An unlikely tennis journey from Rotorua to Wimbledon
Meet Ruia Morrison, the first New Zealand woman and first Māori tennis player to compete at Wimbledon. Raised on the courts of Te Koutu in the 1940s, Morrison quickly dominated inter-marae tournaments around Rotorua before being sent to Auckland as a teenager to compete in the premiere club competition.
By age 20, she was a national singles champion and, thanks to the support of the wider Māori community, on a plane to Wimbledon for the 1957 grand slam tournament. But despite being considered one of the best in the world at the time, and a successful career spanning two decades, Morrison has remained largely unknown in her home country. Still living in Rotorua and a matriarch of Māori tennis, Ruia Morrison is well and truly a lost sporting legend of Aotearoa.
Anne Audain: The story of New Zealand’s most successful road runner
Anne Audain has won more races than she’s lost. In fact, of the 112 road races that Audain ran in America, she won 75. And in the process, earned Nike and Pepsi endorsements, and hundreds of thousands of dollars as a professional middle distance runner, something virtually unheard of these days.
Raised on Waiheke Island and Ōtāhuhu, Audain is the only New Zealand woman to win Commonwealth Gold on the track after a convincing win in the 3000m at the 1982 Brisbane games. But with a successful professional career in America, Audain never returned to New Zealand to live the life of a Games medalist. Now in her sixties and still running every day, Audain shares her life story of surgeries, abuse, bans, dominance, and, finally, triumph.
Brett Fairweather: Meet the creator of Jump Jam
Every New Zealander under the age of 30 knows at least one Jump Jam song. “Witch Doctor”, “Coconut”, “Kotahitanga”. They’re instantly recognisable, with the recognition most often accompanied by an involuntary dance move. Less readily recognised is the creator and choreographer of those dance moves, Brett Fairweather.
Fairweather was moved to join an aerobics class after hearing the music through the walls of the gym. His love for the sport only grew, and culminated in a win at the World Cup in Japan in 1991. Being an aerobics champion in 1991 meant being world famous. Fairweather went on a global tour, competing and teaching in over 20 countries. When he returned to New Zealand, he wanted to share his love of a now dying sport with the next generation. In 2001, Jump Jam was born, and the rest is history.
Chunli Li: Undefeated in New Zealand at 57-years-old
Chunli Li moved to New Zealand in 1987 to retire from table tennis, aged 25. Instead, she was asked to keep playing and represented New Zealand at four Olympic Games and at the 2002 Commonwealth Games won an unprecedented four medals, aged 40.
Born in Guiping, China, Li was scouted at nine years old and sent to a specialist table tennis school in Beijing. Training up to five hours a day, she moved up the junior ranks, making the Chinese national squad and eventually winning a national title at 20. By 25, Li had retired from the national team and accepted an invitation to coach at the Manawatu Table Tennis Association in New Zealand. On the other side of the world, she couldn’t be beaten. Three decades later, Li speaks of a life spent serving one purpose, and keeping her Olympic medal dream alive.
Barbara Cox: the matriarch of New Zealand football
New Zealand’s first women’s football team wasn’t formed until 1975. Barbara Cox was the captain, and led the team’s fundraising efforts which included selling kisses at the local bar for 20 cents.
Born in 1947, Cox grew up learning that a woman’s role was to cook and clean and take care of her husband. So when her husband signed her up to a local football team in 1973, Cox’s life changed. With help from a few male administrators, and not much help from anyone else, Cox and her team mates worked to a top four world ranking, beating the US on the way. Cox represented New Zealand for over a decade, and went on to become the first woman to receive the top New Zealand football coaching certificate.
New Zealand has come a long way in its treatment of female athletes, but only thanks to those who refused to put up with double standards long ago. Barbara Cox is one of them and her work isn’t done.
Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends is made with the support of NZ On Air.
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