“Stan Lay may have been the finest natural javelin thrower the world has ever seen,” is the informed judgment of historian Peter Heidenstrom, who gives two pages to Lay in his Athletes of the Century (1992), and ranks him first all-time among New Zealand javelin throwers.
Lay’s is a story of long-term success – gold and silver medals in three British Empire (now Commonwealth) Games over twenty years; twelve national titles over a period of twenty-four years (with five years out for World War 2); and a best throw that lasted 26 years as the Commonwealth record, 29 years as British all-comers record, and 31 years as the New Zealand record.
It is also a story of opportunities missed. Lay’s phenomenal 67.89m to win the English title in 1928 was the world’s second best of all-time. He went on to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam as hot favourite, since the Finnish world record holder was injured, but failed in three qualifying throws to make ...