1954 - Vancouver Empire and Commonwealth Games


In July 1954, Peter represented New Zealand for the first time at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.

Christchurch Press: Peter Wells is no surprise selection. His jumping this season has been uniformly consistent, and he has cleared 6ft sixteen times. He set a new national record of 6ft 6¼in to break the figure set by the Australian J.A. Winter, at the Auckland Empiad. Also this season he has exceeded 6ft 4in five times, 6ft 5in four times, and 6ft 6in twice. Wells. who learnt his athletics in England, first jumped 6ft at the age of 17 when competing for Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in the public schools' championships. Since that day in 1947 he has bettered 6ft on 108 occasions. Because training opportunities will be limited by the short winter evenings, Wells, who is an accountant, intends to keep fit by doing as much training as possible in his lunch hour.

These games included The ‘Miracle Mile’, as it became known, saw both the gold medallist, Roger Bannister of England and silver medallist John Landy of Australia, run sub-four minute races in an event that was televised live across the world for the first time.

Travel to Vancouver

The New Zealand team flew in a 4 engine Lockheed Constellation from Auckland. First stop was Fiji, then a re-fuel at Canton Island, part of the Republic of Kiribati. From there they flew to Honolulu for a stopover for a day, to San Francisco, and then onto Vancouver.

Unbeknown to the passengers, the plane lost an engine over the Rockies. When they landed there were fire engines and ambulances flying up the runway alongside the plane. When Wells casually asked people on the ground if they always met overseas planes with fire engines and ambulances, they replied “oh no, they thought you were going to crash – you’d lost a motor”.

High Jump Competition

Wells finished 4th, beaten by 2 athletes from Nigeria, and 1 from Uganda.

A new Commonwealth record for the high jump was established at the games by Emmanuel Ifeajuna of Nigeria. He competed wearing only his left shoe yet managed to clear 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), which was both a Games record and a British Empire record for the discipline. The resulting gold medal made him the first Black African to win at a major international sports competition. The high jump had an African sweep of the medals that year, with Uganda's Patrick Etolu finishing behind Ifeajuna and Nigeria's Osagie taking third place.

Gold Medal winner Emmanuel Ifeajuna returned to Nigeria as a national hero. However, after the war he joined the military and was executed in on 25 September 1967, accused of being a conspirator in a plot to overthrow the government.

Interview with Christchurch Press: Wells, who finished fourth in the high jump with 6ft 5in said he felt quite satisfied with his performance. "I missed at 6ft 6¼in, but I have only cleared that twice before - in England in 1949 and at Rugby Park last season. When the bar went up to 6ft 6¼in I was lying second. I thought I went very close to getting over, but just caught the bar. The second and third jumpers both cleared the bar on their third attempt."

Civic farewell to NZ Hockey Team and Canterbury Empire Games Athletes

Leaving for Canada

Arrival in Vancouver

Peter training in Vancouver 1954
Sightseeing in Canada

1954 - Back home form Vancouver