Dick Tayler collapses on the track after winning the 10,000 m (Tom Duffy/Getty Images)
The opening ceremony of the ‘Friendly Games’ had featured performances by schoolchildren and a Māori concert party. Next day, Canterbury runner Dick Tayler ensured the success of the Games with a surprise victory for the host nation in the 10,000 m track race.
Tayler’s effort was even more memorable because the field included English world record-holder David Bedford and three top-flight Kenyans, whose over-ambitious early pace played into Tayler’s hands. The Kiwi’s cat-and-mouse tactics against another Englishman, David Black, in the latter stages of the race before he pulled away on the final lap made it one of the Games’ signature moments. His winning time of 27 minutes 46.4 seconds was then the sixth fastest 10,000 m ever run. No New Zealander ran significantly faster until Zane Robertson recorded 27 minutes 33.67 seconds at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
At 25, Tayler’s best years should have been ahead of him. Instead, his career was ended within months by the onset of arthritis. Dick Tayler was made an inaugural member of the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.