Three new athletes will be inducted into the Waitaki Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night. Sandra McGookin knows what it feels like – she was inducted in the 1990s. Kayla Hodge finds out more about the former New Zealand javelin thrower.
Winning six New Zealand javelin titles and representing your country at the Commonwealth Games and transtasman games are moments bound to stick with you.
For Sandra McGookin, they have, but there was something about being honoured by her Oamaru sporting community that struck a chord with her even more.
She was inducted into the Waitaki Sports Hall of Fame in the 1990s, and her picture and a list of her achievements can still be found on the wall of the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre today.
“It’s definitely an honour to be recognised in your hometown. It’s a really good to have local people recognised – it’s a great way of doing it,” McGookin said.
Three new top-level athletes will be inducted into the hall of fame on Monday before the Network Waitaki Sports Awards.
Their inductions will be the first in five years, since Graeme Robertson and Trevor James’ inductions for softball and athletics respectively in 2016.
Having people inducted into the hall of fame again was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the athletes’ careers, McGookin said.
“It’s really great that they do it to recognise the local talents – I think it’s a great thing to do.”
The inductions helped add to the support and recognition athletes already received in the local community. That was something McGookin remembered fondly.
“I had a lot of support from the local area when I was competing .. and the [North Otago] athletics club, they were all very supportive.
“I think a lot of times in a sport like that, it’s the ones you’ve got helping you good coach, and a good support team.
“My mother [Rona Goodsir] was very supportive, and took me everywhere. You’ve got to have that good base.”
At 14, McGookin joined the North Otago Athletics Club and when Graham Merrilees came in to coach her in the javelin, her career began to take off.
He was ruthless at making her train and the pair worked together for about 10 years.
“Once I went under his thumb, I progressed with Otago and I was then lucky enough to win six New Zealand titles, and got second a few times before winning one. Basically, it was pretty much down to his coaching.”
She competed in a 1971 transtasman competition, placed sixth at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, and competed at the New Zealand Games in 1975.
Taking part in the Commonwealth Games was a massive career highlight, alongside the people she met throughout her javelin career.
But there was one more thing that still brought a smile to her face now – the North Otago Athletics Club.
“I’m very pleased to see the athletics club is still running so well and has some very good people running it. It’s nice to see that they are still going strong.”