Thursday, February 22, 2024

Athlete of the century missed at launch of her book

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Kobi Corlett (centre) at the launch of his legendary great-grandmother’s book with author David Riley (left, front row) and illustrator Chad Robertson (right). Also in the picture are Dame Yvette Corlett’s (nee Williams) daughter Karen and son Neville (back row). Times photo Wayne Martin

Success in anything you do, does not come without struggle.

Karen Corlett is quoting her mother, the first Kiwi female Olympic gold medallist Dame Yvette Corlett at the launch of David Riley’s biography titled Yvette Williams: Leaping into History. 

While the trailblazer’s son Neville and daughter Karen (both locals) were present for the posthumous launch of the book written on the Athlete of the Century, the surprise package came in the form of little Kobi Corlett.

“We just discovered the day before that Kobi is Yvette’s great-grandson and that he joined our school a couple of months ago,” says Bronwyn Bell, librarian at Star of the Sea School who arranged the special book launch at the school assembly hall  on the last day of  Book Week .

Along with the author, also known as the Reading Warrior, there was illustrator Chad Robertson.

Chad was David’s former student and said he felt honoured when 15 years later, his former English teacher approached him to  illustrate the book.

David said the first impression he had of meeting New Zealand’s golden girl at a rest home in Howick was that she had an athletic frame even at the age of 90. He was thrilled when she took him into a special room with a special cupboard which had a special case that held the much-treasured gold medal she won at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952 in the long jump.

“I asked her if I could hold it and she said I could, which is a moment I will always treasure,” he says.

“It was like holding a piece of history in my hands.

“It was so inspiring meeting her as she spoke about leaving at a very young age to train with her coach. She would run in boots in her lunch break and would do weight lifting with concrete blocks or anything she could lay her hands on to build up strength and stamina.

“She showed me her scrapbook with inspirational writing and a poem on Reaching for the Stars, which she did.”

David who has authored 28 books to-date and is drawn to writing about inspirational figures “to keep our history alive,” says he had a sense of urgency of telling Yvette’s story as he grew up reading about her.

“It’s such a shame that the inspiring role model is not here to see the book,” he said about the Howick-Pakuranga resident, known for her will to win and make world history.

For more information on the David Riley, the Reading Warrior log on to






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