Harry Kerr’s place in New Zealand sporting history is very secure. He is Olympian number one. At the 1908 London Olympic Games he became the first New Zealander to win an Olympic medal taking the bronze in the 3500m walk. He was born in 1879 and died in 1951.
He always had unusual sports ability. He was a champion shooter, loved rugby, and was good at most track and field events. But walking particularly caught the attention of the strapping 6ft 4in (or 1.93m) Kerr. As was often the custom at the turn of the 20th century, he bypassed the major meets of the day to compete professionally, and was a regular at the big New Year’s Day pro meet at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin, where he conceded massive handicaps.
Kerr eventually decided to turn amateur, which necessitated standing down from all competition for two years. He took his two-year hiatus in 1905-06, and dedicated himself to clearing bush on the family farm at Tariki, near Stratford.