The Most Famous

ATHLETES from New Zealand

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest New Zealander Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 20 of which were born in New Zealand. This makes New Zealand the birth place of the 36th most number of Athletes behind Belgium and Switzerland.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary New Zealander Athletes of all time. This list of famous New Zealander Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of New Zealander Athletes.

Photo of Peter Snell

1. Peter Snell (1938 - 2019)

With an HPI of 62.68, Peter Snell is the most famous New Zealander Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages on wikipedia.

Sir Peter George Snell (17 December 1938 – 12 December 2019) was a New Zealand middle-distance runner. He won three Olympic gold medals, and is the only man since 1920 to have won the 800 and 1500 metres at the same Olympics, in 1964. Snell had a relatively short career as a world-famous international sportsman, 1960–1965, yet achieved so much that he was voted New Zealand's "Sports Champion of the (20th) Century" and was one of 24 inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall Of Fame named in 2012. A protégé of the New Zealand athletics coach Arthur Lydiard, Snell is known for the three Olympic and two Commonwealth Games gold medals he won, and the several world records he set.

Photo of Yvette Williams

2. Yvette Williams (1929 - 2019)

With an HPI of 57.44, Yvette Williams is the 2nd most famous New Zealander Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Dame Yvette Winifred Corlett (née Williams; 25 April 1929 – 13 April 2019) was a New Zealand track-and-field athlete who was the first woman from her country to win an Olympic gold medal and to hold the world record in the women's long jump. Williams was named "Athlete of the Century" on the 100th anniversary of Athletics New Zealand, in 1987.

Photo of Murray Halberg

3. Murray Halberg (1933 - )

With an HPI of 56.56, Murray Halberg is the 3rd most famous New Zealander Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Sir Murray Gordon Halberg (born 7 July 1933) is a New Zealand former middle-distance runner who won the gold medal in the 5000 metres event at the 1960 Olympics. He also won gold medals in the 3 miles events at the 1958 and 1962 Commonwealth Games. He has worked for the welfare of children with disabilities since he founded the Halberg Trust in 1963.

Photo of Jack Lovelock

4. Jack Lovelock (1910 - 1949)

With an HPI of 55.55, Jack Lovelock is the 4th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

John Edward Lovelock (5 January 1910 – 28 December 1949) was a New Zealand athlete who became the world 1500m and mile record holder and 1936 Olympic champion in the 1500 metres.

Photo of John Walker

5. John Walker (1952 - )

With an HPI of 53.52, John Walker is the 5th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Sir John George Walker, (born 12 January 1952) is a former middle-distance runner from New Zealand who won the 1500 m event at the 1976 Olympics. He was also the first person to run the mile in under 3:50. In more recent years, Walker has been active in local government, as an Auckland Councillor and representing the Manurewa-Papakura ward.

Photo of Neroli Fairhall

6. Neroli Fairhall (1944 - 2006)

With an HPI of 51.88, Neroli Fairhall is the 6th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Neroli Susan Fairhall (26 August 1944 – 11 June 2006) was a New Zealand athlete, who was the first paraplegic competitor in the Olympic Games.

Photo of Dudley Storey

7. Dudley Storey (1939 - 2017)

With an HPI of 51.48, Dudley Storey is the 7th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Dudley Leonard Storey (27 November 1939 – 6 March 2017) was a New Zealand rower who won two Olympic medals.

Photo of Valerie Adams

8. Valerie Adams (1984 - )

With an HPI of 48.46, Valerie Adams is the 8th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Dame Valerie Kasanita Adams (formerly Vili; born 6 October 1984) is a New Zealand shot putter. She is a four-time World champion, four-time World Indoor champion, two-time Olympic, three-time Commonwealth Games champion and twice IAAF Continental Cup winner. She has a personal best throw of 21.24 metres outdoors and 20.54 m indoors. These marks are Oceanian, Commonwealth and New Zealand national records. She also holds the Oceanian junior record (18.93 m) and the Oceanian youth record (17.54 m), as well as the World Championships record, World Indoor Championships record and Commonwealth Games record. Adams was the third woman to win world championships at the youth, junior, and senior level of an athletics event, following the feats of Yelena Isinbayeva and Jana Pittman. She was the first woman to win four consecutive individual titles at the IAAF World Championships. Adams had a winning streak that extended to 56 wins at elite-level competitions, which started in August 2010 and ended in July 2015. She was the IAAF World Athlete of the Year in 2014 and the Track & Field News Athlete of the Year in 2012 and 2013. She had the longest shot put performance of the season every year from 2006 to 2014, bar 2008 when she was second to Natallia Mikhnevich (later banned for doping that year). Adams won silver medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics, 2005 World Championships in Athletics, and the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and 2018. She was also a bronze medallist at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships. While still a teenager, Adams was a finalist at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics and the 2004 Summer Olympics. At national level, she has won fifteen shot put titles at the New Zealand Athletics Championships between 2001 and 2018, as well as having a hammer throw national title in 2003. Adams also won four times at the Australian Athletics Championships between 2004 and 2008. From 2006 to 2012 she was chosen as the New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year seven times consecutively and has been awarded the Lonsdale Cup on five occasions in recognition as the leading national athlete in an Olympic sport.

Photo of Simon Dickie

9. Simon Dickie (1951 - 2017)

With an HPI of 47.19, Simon Dickie is the 9th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Simon Charles Dickie (31 March 1951 – 13 December 2017) was a New Zealand rowing cox who won three Olympic medals. Dickie was born in 1951 in Waverley in Taranaki, New Zealand. He was educated at Wanganui Collegiate School where he was part of the Maadi Cup winning crews between 1966 and 1968. For the 1968 Summer Olympics, New Zealand qualified an eight and had a pool of four rowers and a cox as a travelling reserve; Dickie was part of this reserve as their cox. Preparations were held in Christchurch at Kerr's Reach on the Avon River. The reserve rowers were unhappy with the "spare parts" tag and felt that they were good enough to perhaps win a medal if put forward as a coxed four. The trainer, Rusty Robertson, commented about them that they were "the funniest looking crew you've ever seen". There were stern discussions with the New Zealand selectors. In a training run, the coxed four was leading fours formed from the eight over the whole race. In the end, the reserve rowers got their way and New Zealand entered both the coxed four and the coxed eight. Dickie won the Olympic coxed four event along with Dick Joyce, Dudley Storey, Ross Collinge and Warren Cole; this was New Zealand's first gold medal in rowing. At the time, he was a 17-year-old schoolboy at Wanganui Collegiate, called in to replace a previous cox who had been killed in a training accident. The crew's winning boat was later sold to a rowing club to recoup costs, and ended up in splinters after a road crash.Dickie was part of the eight that was formed for the 1971 rowing season; he teamed up with Dick Joyce, Tony Hurt, Wybo Veldman, John Hunter, Lindsay Wilson, Joe Earl, Trevor Coker and Gary Robertson. They won gold at the 1971 European Rowing Championships, defeating the favourite team from East Germany. The New Zealand eight would go on in unchanged composition to with the 1972 Olympic eight event where they again won gold. At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal he was again cox for the eight which this time won the bronze medal. His crewmates this time were Tony Hurt, Alec McLean, Ivan Sutherland, Trevor Coker, Peter Dignan, Lindsay Wilson, Joe Earl and Dave Rodger. Dickie is one of only fifteen New Zealanders to have won two or more Olympic gold medals. He later owned an adventure company in Taupo.

Photo of Barbara Kendall

10. Barbara Kendall (1967 - )

With an HPI of 42.94, Barbara Kendall is the 10th most famous New Zealander Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Barbara Anne Kendall (born 30 August 1967) is a former boardsailor from New Zealand. She competed at five Summer Olympic Games and won gold, silver and bronze medals.

Pantheon has 20 people classified as athletes born between 1910 and 1996. Of these 20, 14 (70.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Murray Halberg, John Walker, and Valerie Adams. The most famous deceased athletes include Peter Snell, Yvette Williams, and Jack Lovelock. As of October 2020, 6 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Neroli Fairhall, Dudley Storey, and Simon Dickie.

Living Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Athletes (2020)

Go to all Rankings

Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 6 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.