NEWS Our global sporting stars
By PAUL PETERS
What have Richie McCaw, Mark Todd, Norman Read, Russell Coutts, New Zealand rowers and 1982 World Cup football team got in common?
They have all been honoured on postage stamps. But you will have to travel the world to find them in your album because they all appear on stamps of foreign countries.
Indeed, in 1957 Read became the first Kiwi sportsman honoured on any stamp anywhere – by the Dominican Republic.
It was not until 1973 that New Zealand bothered to mark the success of a Kiwi sports team, by issuing an eight-cent stylised design commemorating the gold medal won by the men’s eights at the Munich Olympics the previous year.
Born in Portsmouth, England, Read came to New Zealand in his 20s. He won New Zealand titles for the 20-kilometre and 50-km walking races in 1956, followed by the Australian 50km title.
Later that year he won gold in the 50km event for New Zealand at the Melbourne Olympics. Of the 21 starters in that event only 15 finished.
Read, who died in 1994, was voted New Zealand’s Sportsman of the Year in 1956.
On the downside, his appearance on a stamp of the Dominican Republic, along with about 20 other world athletes, between 1957 and 1960, came against the brutal backdrop of that country’s dictator trying to portray his country as a global player for the ‘‘free world’’.
United States-backed Rafael Trujillo, self-styled benefactor of the nation, headed one of the worst dictatorships in Latin American history from 1930 till his assassination in 1961.
Any honour from the regime had more to do with Trujillo’s promotion of his profile than a genuine interest in sport.
During the Trujillo Era as it became known, an estimated 50,000 people were killed, the name of the capital was changed from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo, the province of San Cristobal was changed to "Trujillo", and the nation’s highest peak, Pico Duarte, was renamed Pico Trujillo.
Churches were required to promote the slogan ‘‘Dios en cielo, Trujillo en tierra" (God in Heaven, Trujillo on Earth).
One of Trujillo’s last and most publicised crimes was the murder in 1960 of political dissidents, the Mirabal sisters Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva.
New Zealand’s rowers were next to be honoured, again by an oppressive regime but one nowhere near as bad as Trujillo’s.
In 1976 Nicaragua, then ruled by the Somoza dynasty, marked the Montreal Olympics by featuring two Kiwi rowing teams as part of a large set of stamps and souvenir sheets honouring rowers from previous Olympics.
The New Zealand coxed fours who won gold at the 1968 Olympics were Ross Collinge, Warren Cole, Dick Joyce, Dudley Storey; and Simon Dickie (cox).
In Munich in 1972 the eights who won gold were Trevor Coker, Athol Earl, John Hunter, Tony Hurt, Dick Joyce, Gary Robertson, Wybo Veldman, Lindsay Wilson; and Simon Dickie (cox).
One of the oddest stamp honours must be that for Sir Russell Coutts for winning a gold medal in Finn Class yachting in the 1984 Olympic Games. His reward was to appear on one of four stamps and a souvenir sheet issued by Mauritania to commemorate winners of yachting events at the Los Angeles games.
Although New Zealand has honoured its yachtsmen on stamps in more recent years, the west African nation can claim to be the first to mark a Kiwi yachtie’s achievement.
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw recently appeared on a stamp of Mozambique. He featured on a special sheet featuring various rugby stars, which looked back on the rugby world cup.
Anne Newman, communications manager with the Canterbury Rugby Union, quoted Richie as saying only that he was ‘‘unaware of the stamp’’ until Midweek asked for his comments.
Ma’a Nonu featured in the centre of the decorative sheetlet featuring McCaw and other world rugby stars but not on a stamp.
Rugby is a minor but growing sport in Mozambique (ruled by Portugal until 1975) which borders rugby powerhouse South Africa.
New Zealand football made an appearance on stamps in 1982 when Belize, the former colony of British Honduras in Central America, featured match photos on two stamps marking Scotland’s 5-2 win over the All Whites.
Both stamps show goalmouth action. Other stamps in the set featured genuine contenders for the World Cup, which was held in Spain.
In 1984, Mark Todd became the first Kiwi to win an equestrian medal at the Olympic Games when he won the individual threeday event championship in Los Angeles.
Todd’s only major win previously had been the 1980 Badminton Horse Trials.
He is the only New Zealander to appear on a stamp of the Guinea Republic, which issued six stamps honouring 1984 Olympic winners.
On the ball: Richie McCaw, top left, joins Matt Giteau, Sergio Parisse, Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield and Juan Smith on a sheetlet of Mozambique stamps promoting rugby. Ma’a Nonu appears on the decorative border. Shane Williams appeared on a separate small souvenir sheet.
Top four: The New Zealand coxed fours who won gold at the 1968 Olympics on a stamp of Nicaragua.
Unusual: Mauritania issued four stamps featuring yachting winners at the 1984 Olympics including Russell Coutts.
World Cup: Scotland scores against NZ.