Who was the first British female track-and-field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal?

The first British female track-and-field athlete to win an Olympic gold medal was Mary Rand, who did so on October 14, 1964 at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Rand led the qualifiers – as she had done in Rome four years earlier, only to capitulate, after two foul jumps, in the final – with an Olympic record of 6.52 metres. In the final, she opened with a British and Olympic record of 6.59 metres, which she improved to 6.63 metres in the fourth round and again, with a world record jump of 6.76 metres in the fifth.

Her winning jump, which beat the previous mark set by Tatyana Shchelkanova of the Soviet Union on July 4, 1964, by 0.06 metres, or 2¼ inches, was all the more remarkable for having been made into 1.6 metres per second headwind and from a sodden, clay runway. Rand later confessed, ‘I didn’t know until many years afterwards that I was jumping against the wind – and that five of my jumps beat the Olympic record.’

Elsewhere at the Tokyo Olympics, Rand won a silver medal in the pentathlon, behind Irina Press of the Soviet Union, who set a world record of 5,246 points and, alongside Daphne Arden, Dorothy Hyman and Janet Simpson, a bronze medal in the 4 x 100-metres relay, behind Poland and the United States. Rand continued to compete but, despite winning a gold medal in the long jump at the British and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica in August, 1966, she later confided, After Tokyo, I did a few meets, but I just didn’t have it.’ She retired from competitive athletics in 1968.

Post Navigation