Peter’s Olympic memories

Old Elizabethan Peter Wells competed in the high jump at two Olympics – Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne four years later.

Born at Friern Barnet in May 1929, he first attended Byng Road Council School and then joined QE in 1939. Having initially begun competitive athletics as a runner, Peter became interested in the high jump while still at QE. He practised at the School high jumping pit, which was equipped with a bamboo bar and sand.

To learn his craft, he perused a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings from the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the School library. His efforts to emulate the styles pictured were, however, somewhat hampered by the fact that the photos did not show which was the take-off foot – a deficiency which led to him developing an unusual style.

Nevertheless, he soon began picking up trophies, including one at the London Public Schools vs Paris athletics fixture in 1946. At the same fixture a year later, he became the first English schoolboy to clear 6ft, setting a new public schools record.

After leaving QE in 1947, he began his two years’ compulsory National Service in the Army. In 1949, his jump of 6' 6¼" in Bristol broke the English Native High Jump record – a record which stood for ten years.

After first touring New Zealand when competing for England at the 1950 Empire Games in Auckland, Peter decided to emigrate. He was New Zealand champion for seven years from 1950/51 to 1957/58 and broke the New Zealand high jump record twice – his December 1954 jump of 6ft 4½in stood for 14 years. He came 12th in Helsinki, 16th in Melbourne, fifth at the 1950 Empire Games and fourth at the 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.

Peter still lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is married with five children and ten grandchildren. More than half a century after becoming an Olympian for the second time, he still keeps fit, cycling 100 miles every week.