News15 Jun 2007

Renowned Athletics writer Heidenstrom dies


World renowned authority on athletics, Peter Heidenstrom of Wellington, has died.

Heidenstrom aged 77 was New Zealand's most perceptive and widely published writer on athletics and he put his extensive records and encyclopaedic knowledge into the most comprehensive book on New Zealand athletics ever written.

'Athletes of the Century' was published in 1992 containing detailed information covering 100 years of men and women's track, field and long distance events.

Over 50 years of research went into producing the definitive reference book.

Heidenstrom, on crutches, has spent a life time covering the sport of athletics which he had a love and passion for.

He is always at every major meeting including New Zealand Championships year in year out timing, recording, discussing and clarifying points about any performance going back 100 years.

Recent ill health prevented him from attending the New Zealand track and field championships in Inglewood in March, the first championships he has missed in over 50 years.

Well before the days of internet and email Peter kept performances in New Zealand to the forefront of world attention, ensuring that they were included in world rankings.

He has been an international correspondent to the authoritative USA magazine Track & Field News for over 50 years. He has written for numerous sports magazines in New Zealand over the years, including the former Sports Digest. He was an athletic correspondent to The Dominion and regularly contributed to the NZ Athlete, NZ Runner and vo2 max magazines.

Heidenstrom's statistics were a legend and he was able to produce at any time a list of all-time top performances by age of any event on the athletic programme. He also invented a wind graph with which he could calculate to the hundredth of a second the effect of head or tail winds on the human body. 

A friend of Heidenstrom, national long and triple jump champion Dave Norris, said athletics has lost an icon.

"I first met Peter 51 years ago and we have kept in touch regularly over the years. I have real respect for his statistics and he will be sorely missed," said Norris. 

At school Heidenstrom was an 800m runner and his early career was taken up as a primary school teacher. Arthritis struck early in his life, leaving him having to use crutches for mobility.

After school teaching Heidenstrom joined the Accident Compensation Commission as a statistician where he remained until he retired.

Heidenstrom had another talent in the art of calligraphy and he taught calligraphy to adults at Wellington High School and Newlands College.

His surname is Norwegian and means "heather by the stream". Heidenstrom was born in New Zealand on 20 June 1929 and was adopted by a father of Norwegian descent.

Heidenstrom is survived by his wife Fleur and son Kris (38) and daughter Tina (36).

His contribution to athletics has been enormous and the history that he maintained will be his legacy in perpetuity.

Murray McKinnon for the IAAF

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