Little Manly family’s connection to top athlete

One of NZ’s greatest athletes, Yvette Corlett (nee Williams), died last month, aged 89. She is best known as the country’s first female Olympic gold medalist, winning the women’s long jump at the 1952 Olympics at Helsinki. Two years later in NZ she broke the world record for the long jump. In the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver she won gold in discus, long jump, and shot put. Yvette was named NZ ‘Sportsman’ of the Year in 1950 and 1952. Her connection with Whangaparaoa Peninsula came about because she was a close relative of the Bell family of Little Manly. During his historical research a few years ago, Councillor John Watson came across the Bell family and their connection with Yvette. This is what he found out:

Yvette Corlett was the niece of Ruby and Allan Bell of Little Manly and used to do her training up here when she visited them. The Bells had homes in both Devonport and Little Manly. In Devonport, Allan converted a spare room into a gym so that Yvette could train there. Her training regime was gruelling to say the least – she would do an hour of early morning calisthenics before she went to work in the city. In her lunch break she would run up and down hills to strengthen her legs. When she finished work at 5pm she would meet her coach, Jim Bellwood for another three hours of training with hurdles, discus and shot put thrown in to ‘vary her routine’.

If she was at Little Manly with the family, Yvette would do her conditioning work along Big Manly beach.
The Bell family bought land at Whangaparaoa around the end of WWI. Ruby Bell was a well-known figure on the peninsula and lived to over 100 years old.


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