Marlene Mathews

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Marlene Mathews
Medal record
Competitor for  Australia
Women's Athletics
Olympic Games
Bronze Melbourne 1956 100 metres
Bronze Melbourne 1956 200 metres
Commonwealth Games
Gold Cardiff 1958 100 yards
Gold Cardiff 1958 220 yards
Silver Cardiff 1958 4x110y relay

Marlene Judith Mathews AO (born 14 July 1934 in Sydney, New South Wales) is a former Australian Olympic sprinter. She has been described as 'one of Australia's greatest and unluckiest' champions.[1]

Early career[edit]

Mathews attended Fort Street High School in Sydney and began competing in athletics in the late 1940s.

At the 1950 Australian Championships, Marlene placed fourth, behind Shirley Strickland, in the 80m Hurdles and ran in the winning state relay team,[2] but was not selected for the 1950 British Empire Games team.

A few days after her 16th birthday at the NSW Championships, she ran a great race at the New South Wales Championships 100 yards final, placing second to world record-holder Marjorie Jackson and beating four members of the Australian Empire Games team, including Olympic medalist Strickland.[3]

Mathews was considered a certainty to gain selection to the 1952 Summer Olympics before a leg injury forced her out of competition[4]

International career[edit]

In 1954, recovered from her injuries, she ran second to Jackson in the National 100 yards championship (and third in the 220 yards)[2] and was duly selected to run in her first international championships at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. She was unlucky again, breaking down injured in her heat of the 100 yards.[2]

At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, she won two bronze medals,[2] over 100 metres and 200 metres. In both races she was beaten by countrywoman Betty Cuthbert (gold) and German Christa Stubnick (silver).

In a controversial move, she was left out of the gold-medal winning Australian 4 x 100 metres relay team as she was 'not considered a good relay runner" but soon after the Games she assisted an Australian team to world records for 4 x 200 metres and 4 x 220 yards relay events.[5]

She proved her versatility in the sprint events by setting a new world record at 400 metres with 57.0 seconds on 6 January 1957.

On 20 March 1958, at the Australian Championships, she set a new world record over 100 yards with 10.3 seconds, and two days later she ran 220 yards in 23.4 seconds and set another world record.[2] In both races, she defeated world-record holder and Olympic champion Cuthbert.

At the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Mathews took out the 100 yards and 220 yards, again beating Cuthbert. She was ranked #1 in the world for both 100 metres[6] and 200 metres[7] in both 1957 and 1958.

Mathews' final competition was at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, where she was eliminated in the 100 metres semi-finals.[2]

Personal details and honours[edit]

Mathews married fireman Barry Willard in 1958 but they later separated.

She was an Assistant Manager of the Australian Olympic Team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.[1]

She became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1979 for her services to athletics, and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1999.

Mathews was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.[1]

A Sydney Ferry, launched in 1993 has been named after Mathews[8]

Statistics[edit]

Personal Bests[3]

Event Time Wind Place Date
100 y 10.3 0.0 Sydney, Australia 20 March 1958
100 m 11.5 - Sydney, Australia 10 March 1956
200 m 23.4 0.0 Sydney, Australia 22 March 1958
220 y 23.4 0.0 Sydney, Australia 22 March 1958
400 m 57.0 - Sydney, Australia 6 January 1957
440 y 57.0 - Sydney, Australia 6 January 1957

World Records[3]

Event Time Place Date
100 y 10.3 Sydney, Australia 20 March 1958
200 m 23.4 Sydney, Australia 22 March 1958
400 m 57.0 Sydney, Australia 6 January 1957
440 y 57.0 Sydney, Australia 6 January 1957
4x200m 1-36.3 Sydney, Australia 5 December 1956
4x220y 1-36.3 Sydney, Australia 5 December 1956

World Rankings - 100m[6] and 200m[7] - rankings commenced in 1956.

Year Event Ranking
1956 100m 3
200m 4
1957 100m 1
200m 1
1958 100m 1
200m 1
1959 100m 2
1960 100m 9

Australian Championships Record[2] - prior to 1963 Championships were held every two years

Year 100y 220y 80m Hurdles 4x110y relay
1950 - - 4 1
1952 - - - -
1954 2 3 - 1
1956 3 2 - 1
1958 1 1 - 1
1960 3 DNQ - 2

References[edit]