Quite apart from her Olympic marathon bronze medal in 1992, Lorraine Moller built a formidable record as a distance athlete.
She represented New Zealand at the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games, where her fifth place in the 800m was considered an excellent effort for an 18-year-old running novice.
Moller continued to run for New Zealand until the 1996 Atlanta Olympic marathon. She won bronze medals over 1500m and 3000m at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, and compiled a good record in road and cross-country running. But it was as a marathon runner that she really shone.
She made her marathon debut in 1979 and reeled off eight consecutive marathon victories, and nine from her first 10 starts, winning major marathons in London, Osaka, Boston, Fukuoka and on the lucrative Avon circuit. She claimed the silver medal in the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games marathon.
Moller competed in four successive Olympic marathons, beginning with the Los Angeles race in 1984, the first Olympic women’s marathon ever held. This was an astounding record, given that she was 29 before she ever ran at the Olympics.
Three New Zealand women – Moller, Anne Audain and Allison Roe - were pioneers for a generation of New Zealand women’s athletes, and were also three of the leading world stars who pushed for above-board prize-money in track and field. They announced they would accept prize-money for the 1981 Cascade Runoff in Oregon, a protest at the “shamateurism” of the time. The controversy their move created helped push athletics into the open era.
Moller was supposed to be well past her athletics prime by the 1992 Olympics. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics she had struggled home in 33rd position, in a time of 2h 37min 52s and there was widespread criticism when she was included in the 1992 team. After all, she was 37 and her best results had been several years earlier.
However, Moller ran the race of her life. Undaunted by the ferocious Barcelona heat and humidity, by the steep 4km climb towards the athletics stadium, or by such big-name opposition as Wanda Panfil (Poland), Katrin Dorre (Germany) and Lisa Martin (Australia), Moller ran boldly and bravely.
Entering the stadium to a crescendo of cheering, Moller floated to the finish line. Her time of 2h 33min 59s was 78 seconds behind the winner, Valentina Yegorova, of Russia, but gave her a cushion of nearly two minutes over fourth-placed Madina Biktagirova of Belarus, not that it would have mattered, because Biktagirova later failed the drugs test.
Moller followed only Yvette Williams and Marise Chamberlain as New Zealand female track and field athletes to have won Olympic medals. Only Valerie Adams has since joined the elite group.
She had bypassed a lucrative event in Japan so she could be at her peak in Barcelona. As a result she was dumped by her Japanese shoe sponsor, Mizuno, and decided to remain a free agent so that she would have no obligations to fulfil. “Now I’ve got a medal, you couldn’t put a price on it. It’s worth $30,000, $50,000 or anything I could have earned. The medal means everything to me,” she said.
Moller finished her Olympic career in Atlanta in 1996, aged 41, when she ran 2h 42min 21s for 46th place.
Since the early 1980s, Moller has lived in Boulder, Colorado, where she is married to Harlan Smith and has a daughter, Jasmin. She remains involved in athletics as a coach. In 2007, she wrote On the Wings of Mercury, a biography which sold very well.