3 Jun 2019

Yvette Corlett finally made a Dame

5:52 am on 3 June 2019

Roy Williams believes his "big sis" has finally got the recognition she has long deserved.

Yvette Williams and Sir Murray Halberg.

Yvette Williams and Sir Murray Halberg. Photo: Photosport

Yvette Corlett (nee Williams) has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to athletics, a month and a half after her passing, aged 89.

Her Majesty's approval of the award took effect on 12 April, only a day before Corlett's death, but she had been informed about the honour.

"We found out in confidentiality when the government sent Yvette a letter about 10 or 12 days before she died," Roy Williams said.

"Two of Yvette's three sons and her daughter were with her when she got the letter and she was quite proud and thrilled.

"She always understated herself but she was quite thrilled and excited about it.

"It's just sad that she didn't last long enough to have it publicly recognised."

Yvette Corlett often shied away from the public praise, after she became the first New Zealand woman to win a gold medal at an Olympic Games in 1952, when she won the long jump in Helsinki.

"She was very, very modest and didn't want to be wandering around with people calling her Dame," Williams said.

Yvette Williams jumps her way to an Olympic Gold medal with a jump of 6.24m. Helsinki Olympic Games, 1952.

Yvette Williams jumps her way to an Olympic Gold medal with a jump of 6.24m. Helsinki Olympic Games, 1952. Photo: Photosport

Corlett was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1953 New Year Honours and her brother nominated her for a further honour in 2010.

"I sent down about 25 very strong recommendations from the likes Sir John Walker, Sir Murray Halberg, Sir Peter Snell and Sir Patrick Hogan, the great horse breeder who was a great admirer of Yvette's."

Barbara Kendall and Sarah Ulmer, who Yvette taught at Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland, also gave recommendations

"I thought she deserved it at that stage and they gave her the next one down (a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit) which disappointed me quite a lot."

Roy Williams believes the current Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson has played a major role in Corlett becoming a Dame, after a chance meeting at the TP McLean Sports Journalism Awards in Auckland last year.

"I thought I'd take the opportunity to see Grant Robertson and tell him that I was very disappointed that Yvette had never been made a Dame.

"He said 'Roy, I couldn't agree more'.

"He said...'I will make sure I do everything I can to have her awarded the Dame', so I give a lot of credit to Grant Robertson for that."

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