|Competitor for England and Great Britain|
|1964 Tokyo||800 m (WR)|
|1964 Tokyo||400 m|
|1962 Belgrade||4 x 100 m Relay|
|1962 Perth||4 x 110 y Relay|
Ann Elizabeth Packer MBE was born on 8 March 1942 in Moulsford, Oxfordshire. She is an English former sprinter, hurdler and long jumper. She won a gold medal in the 800 metres at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo for Great Britain.
Packer was born in Moulsford, Oxfordshire. She was a member of Reading Athletic Club when she was selected for the British Olympic team, and working as a physical education teacher, at Coombe County Girls' School, New Malden, Surrey, where she was welcomed back by the whole school on her return from Tokyo. She was in the 4 × 110 yards relay team that won a silver medal in the 1962 Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal in the 1962 European Athletics Championships.
Packer travelled to Tokyo in 1964, where she shared a room with long jump gold medallist Mary Rand. Packer was hoping to win her favourite event, the 400 metres, but was beaten into second place by Betty Cuthbert of Australia, despite setting a new European record (52.2sec). After winning a silver medal in the 400 m, Packer had no plans to run in the 800 m and had a shopping trip planned until her fiancé, Robbie Brightwell finished fourth in the 400 m event. Disappointed for him, she turned to the 800 m, an event which she had only raced in five times before, and never in international competition. She had only taken up the longer race to improve her stamina, and earned the third British spot at the last minute.
In her heat and semi-final Packer finished fifth and third, running 2:12.6 and 2:06.0 respectively, being beaten by French runner Maryvonne Dupureur, clocking 2:04.5 and 2:04.5. She thus started the final the slowest of the eight contestants, having raced at the distance only seven times before. Packer was sixth at 400 m, lying behind Dupureur, she was third at 600 m and took the lead in the final straight, using her sprinting speed to take the gold. She broke the world record with a time of 2:01.1 minutes. Commenting on her win, Packer said "Middle-distance running for women was still in its infancy and the 800m had only been run in Rome four years earlier for the first time. I knew nothing about the event but being so naive was probably to my advantage; it meant I did not have any limitations in my head regarding what I should or could do. Ignorance proved to be bliss."
After winning the gold medal, she announced her retirement at the age of 22 and so had one of the shortest athletics careers of any Olympic gold medallist. It would be another forty years before another British woman, Kelly Holmes, would win the 800 m, despite British men being successful at the distance.
Later in the same Games, Brightwell won a silver medal in the 4 x 400 m relay. They later married and had three sons, Gary, a 400 m runner like his mother, and Ian and David, the latter two becoming footballers with Manchester City. She and Robbie were each appointed MBEs in 1965. Packer now lives in Congleton in Cheshire.
In 1966 Packer appeared in an experiment for the BBC TV history programme, Chronicle to see how far geese could walk in a day. She was chosen because however far the geese went, she would still be with them at the end.
- Sachin Nakrani (4 May 2012). "50 stunning Olympic moments No 27: Ann Packer wins 800m in 1964". The Guardian.
- Times On Line biography
- BBC TV web site for Chronicle
|Women's 800 metres World Record Holder
1964-10-20 – 1967-06-28