The star of the 1990 Commonwealth Games was a young New Zealand gymnast whose shock win catapulted her to national celebrity status. But Nikki Jenkins wasn’t our only gymnastic champion that year – this is the story of Angela Walker, New Zealand’s forgotten gold medalist.
When you see an athlete competing at an Olympics or Commonwealth Games, what you’re seeing is the tip of an enormous iceberg representing the hard work it took to get there. That was certainly the case for Angela Walker at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
A top New Zealand rhythmic gymnast throughout the 1980s, Walker finally achieved her dream of representing her country at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988. That was supposed to be the pinnacle of her sporting career – but the prospect of a Commonwealth Games in her hometown of Auckland proved hard to resist, so she postponed her retirement another 15 months.
By the time the games began in January, Walker was almost 23 years old – a veteran in gymnastic terms. She thought she had a good shot at a medal, but with a couple of highly ranked Canadians in the field she wasn’t fancied to win gold. But with a near-flawless rope routine, that’s exactly what she did, picking up three bronzes across the other rhythmic disciplines to go with it.
It was a remarkable feat from a New Zealand gymnast, but it was soon overshadowed by her 14-year-old teammate Nikki Jenkins, whose shock win in the vault catapulted her to national celebrity status. But when we remember Jenkins’ gold medal, we’re only remembering half the story – the other half belongs to Angela Walker.
Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends is made with the support of NZ On Air.
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