STRENGTH IN SPORT
An interesting visitor to the Auckland Welfare Office of the Maori Affairs Department recently was a former New Zealand national champion discus thrower, Ikar Lissienko. Mr Lissienko is an ex-pupil of Wellington College, and was a student at Victoria University in whose colours most of his successes were gained. He is a commanding figure of a man, standing 6 feet 4 inches in height and weighing some 15 stone.
The topic of conversation was why, with all our natural advantages of size and strength, there have been so few Maori champions in athletic field sports, particularly in such events as the discus, javelin, shot put or hammer throw. Mr Lissienko expounded the theory that sheer strength alone is not sufficient, although without strength little can be accomplished. He stated that the all-important factor is speed of movement, used in a controlled rhythm, with every ounce of strength correctly applied. This, of course, is a good definition of what is meant by technique, and, affirmed Mr Lissienko, the smooth application of strength and speed together produces the dynamic power necessary to make the shot, discus, javelin or hammer attain its highest velocity as it leaves the performer's hand.
Speed, then, is a secret. The speed at which a man can straighten his bent arm to put the shot; the speed at which he can revolve to loose the hammer; the speed at which he can uncoil to throw the discus, or to throw the javelin. Speed it is, plus, of course, the correct technique and the proper use of his available strength. This was all very interesting, but still gave no reason why, say, a young Maori, big and strong, could not quickly assert his superiority over a less muscular European.
We discussed it with Mr Lissienko, and the real answer became clear. Champions, especially in these days of keen competition, must give a tremendous amount of time to daily practice. They must have one-track minds, and be utterly devoted to their sport. Family life, employment, social enjoyment of such harmless things as dances, pictures and other recreational pursuits, all these must never be allowed to interfere with the athlete's avowed purpose in life which is to record better and better performances, and to ward off challenges by all rivals. Well, we thought, that is asking a lot of any man, and especially so of a working man who has his livelihood to consider. In some Continental countries, or in the U.S.A., these things are made easy without breaking the laws of amateurism, but not in New Zealand, and certainly not with our Maori people who one and all have their living to earn, and little time to spare.
However, there must be reason in all things, and the fact remains that we do have the potential to produce champions, more particularly in the events mentioned above, where the magnificent physique of some of our sons and daughters gives them a great natural advantage. Is it too much to hope that one day a Maori will represent his country in the field sports at the Olympic Games … or too soon to hope that one may do so at Rome in 1960?
Some 1600 people participated in the ninth National Indoor Bowls Tournament, held at Hastings and Napier from June 9th to 14th, 1958. Among the many competitors there were only 22 of my kinsmen including myself. I feel sure that we will be represented by a far bigger percentage at future tournaments. Unlike most sport where Mum and Dad just go along to see their children take part, Indoor Bowls is for the whole family, Mum and Dad included. So I feel sure more of us Maoris will take up this sport.
The standard of play was indeed high. Taranaki and Horowhenua, perhaps produced the best of our Maori bowlers, particularly Mr G. Maha, T. Jackson, Mr and Mrs Edwards. From Horowhenua, we had Mrs A. Holder playing in her 4th National Tournament, and what a grand personality and fine bowler she is. Then there was W. H. and R. Wehipeihare, a grand trio of women. From the mainland we had Mr and Mrs D. Tipere, of Southland.
H. Haitana from the Ruapehu Centre, was perhaps the best of us all, as he was one of the last 32 players left in the Singles Final.
G. Maha, P. Joseph and Miss J. Peterana qualified for the Rinks which was the last section played. They played with remarkable form and consistency. However, G. Maha did the better of the three, winning 2 games and going down in his 3rd game to a Canterbury team skipped by Mrs A. Gordon. This game was closely fought and perhaps some of the best bowling at the Tournament. T. Jackson, playing 3 for Maha will be well remembered for his coolness under pressure. Mrs A. Gordon duly went on to play A. H. Thomas of Wellington in the final, A. H. Thomas winning by 22 to 14.
The friendly atmosphere in which the games were played, and the hospitality by the Host Unions were unexcelled, as was also the efficiency of the President, Mr C. G. Welsh and his Committee. In my opinion Mr Welsh could well be called the DADDY OF BOWLS.