Precious McKenzie

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Precious McKenzie
Medal record
Men's Weightlifting
Commonwealth Games
Representing  England
Gold medal – first place 1966 Kingston Bantamweight
Gold medal – first place 1970 Edinburgh Bantamweight
Gold medal – first place 1974 Christchurch Flyweight
Representing  New Zealand
Gold medal – first place 1978 Edmonton Bantamweight

Precious McKenzie MBE (born 6 June 1936[1]) is a South African-born former weightlifter who won Commonwealth titles representing both England and New Zealand and has won several World powerlifting and Masters World powerlifting titles. His diminutive stature—1.45m (4' 9")—made him a distinctive figure at any competition.


Born in Durban, South Africa, he suffered from ill-health during his childhood. An ambition to be a circus performer ended because of South Africa's race laws and this led him to weight training and weightlifting. Although he was ranked the best weightlifter in his weight category in South Africa, he was barred in 1958 from representing his country at the Empire and Commonwealth Games that year. Because he was classified as coloured under the apartheid regime he was also excluded from the South African team for the 1960 Rome Olympiad. In 1963, he was told he could be included in the South African team for the 1964 Olympics, provided he was segregated from the white members of the team. He refused and left South Africa for Britain in 1964 with his wife and young family. British minister for sport, Denis Howell, fast-tracked his citizenship application to allow him to compete for England in the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica where he won gold.

Initially working as a "clicker" in a shoe factory in Northampton, he moved to Bristol where he completed a Physical Education degree.

McKenzie competed in three Empire/Commonwealth Games representing England, and at three Olympics (1968, 1972 and 1976) representing Britain. As a result of contacts made during the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand, he decided to settle in that country where, rather than operate as a factory worker, he was offered the opportunity to be a weight trainer in a gym. He settled in the North Island city of Auckland and won his fourth Commonwealth gold representing New Zealand at the age of 42. He has won more Olympic, Commonwealth and World medals in his sport than has perhaps any other sports person, competing in both the bantam and flyweight divisions.

He subsequently became a private consultant in the field of back injury prevention and the New Zealand Safety Council's Manual Handling Advisor, running courses in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and USA.

In 2006 he was recognized by his native country with an induction into the South African Sports Hall of Fame.[2]

A film is planned about his life. A New Zealand-based father-son team have a screenplay and are in Cannes seeking funding. They hope to start shooting in South Africa by early November, 2008.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Half Man Half Biscuit pondered his later years in the song 'I Left My Heart In Papworth General' -- Precious McKenzie, boy I remember you well... with a gob full of tapioca I would sit and I'd watch you excel, those legendary rivulets would trickle on down to your chin, but I always wondered what you did when you packed it all in...
  • McKenzie was one of nine athletes featured in the 1979 National Film Board of Canada documentary on the Edmonton Commonwealth Games, Going the Distance.[4]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Precious McKenzie film goes to Cannes - National - NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 13 May 2008. 
  3. ^ "Precious McKenzie film goes to Cannes". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 13 May 2008. Retrieved 4 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Hicks, Wessely (28 July 1979). "Going the Distance". TV Times, Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 7 October 2013. 

External links[edit]