Shirley Strickland

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Shirley Strickland
AO MBE
Shirley Strickland.jpg
Statue of Shirley Strickland outside
the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Personal information
Nationality  Australia
Born (1925-07-18)18 July 1925
Guildford, Western Australia
Died 11 February 2004(2004-02-11) (aged 78)
Applecross, Western Australia
Residence Applecross, Western Australia
Height 1.72 m (5 ft 7 12 in)
Weight 50.8 kilograms (112 lb)
Sport
Sport Running
Club University, Applecross, Melville

Shirley Barbara Strickland AO, MBE (18 July 1925 – 11 February 2004), later Shirley de la Hunty, was an Australian athlete. She won more Olympic medals than any other Australian in running sports.

Family[edit]

Shirley was the only daughter, the second of five children. She grew up on the family farm east of the wheatbelt town of Pithara, Western Australia.

Her father, Dave Strickland, while a worker at Kalgoorlie in the goldfields of Western Australia, Australia was also an athlete.[1] He was unable to compete in the 1900 Summer Olympics because he lacked the money for a trip to Paris.[2] Instead, in 1900, he directed his efforts to the Stawell Gift 130-yard (120-m) foot-race, winning in 12 seconds off a handicap of 10 yards.[3] His performance was considered to be as good as Stan Rowley's times, which won the Australian amateur sprint titles that season. (Rowley went on to win three bronze medals in the sprints at the 1900 Paris Olympics). Dave Strickland subsequently went on to play one senior game of Australian Rules football with Melbourne-based VFL team St Kilda in 1900 [4] and six with WAFL club West Perth spread across the 1901 and 1909 seasons.

Her mother, Violet Edith Merry, was American-born with a British mining engineer father and a Norwegian mother.[1]

Education[edit]

Shirley Strickland's early education was by correspondence. From 1934 to 1937 she attended the newly established local East Pithara School, winning a scholarship to attend Northam High School,[5] where, in 1939, she won 47 out of 49 events as a schoolgirl athlete.[6] After high school she entered the University of Western Australia from where in 1946 she graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physics. In her spare time she lectured mathematics and physics to returned servicemen at Perth Technical College, played wing in the university hockey team and gained a reputation as an extremely gifted sprinter and hurdler.

Athletic career[edit]

The second World War was disruptive to women's athletics in Australia. Some runners, including Strickland, joined up to help the war effort.[7]

While teaching at Perth Technical College, she was coached by Austin Robertson, a former world professional sprint champion and South Melbourne footballer.[2] She improved her 100 m yards time from 11.8 to 11.0 flat. At the 1947 Western Australia state titles, she won the 100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards, the 90 m yards hurdles and the shot put.

The following year, she took up running seriously, with great success. She won the national title in the 80 m hurdles in 1948 and was part of the Australian delegation for the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. There, Strickland finished third in both the 100 m and 80 m hurdles and won a silver medal in the 4x100 m relay.

After winning three gold medals in the 1950 British Empire Games, she won her first Olympic title at the 1952 Games in Helsinki; she won the 80 m hurdles in world record time (10.9 s). A baton mix-up cost her a second gold in the 4x100 m relay. In the 100 m, she again won the bronze.

She set a new world record of 11.3 s for the 100 m in Poland in 1955, and in the 1956 Olympics, she won again in the 80 m hurdles and with the Australian 4x100 m relay team.

Post-athletics[edit]

She maintained her Olympic involvement, in athlete administration, with the Australian teams during the 1968 and 1976 Olympics in Mexico City and Montreal.

Shirley de la Hunty stood several times without success as a candidate for the Australian Democrats in the 1980s, resigning from the party to contest the 1989 Western Australian Legislative Council election as an independent, again without success. She later served as a local government councillor for the City of Melville.

She was one of the bearers of the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, New South Wales. She carried the Olympic Torch as one of the runners for the final segment in the stadium, before the lighting of the Olympic Flame.

In 2001 Shirley attracted media attention by auctioning her sporting memorabilia including her Olympic gold medals.[6] She was criticised by some for that but asserted she had a right to do so and the income generated would help pay for her grandchildren's education and allow a sizable donation to assist in securing old-growth forests from use by developers. Her memorabilia was eventually acquired for the National Sports Museum in Melbourne by a group of anonymous businessmen who shared her wish that the memorabilia would stay in Australia.

Personal life[edit]

In 1950, she married geologist Lawrence Edmund de la Hunty, who had been one of her students at Perth Technical College. They had four children: Phillip (born 1953), Barbara (1957), Matthew (1960) and David (1963). Matthew was the lead singer in Australian rock band Tall Tales and True. Lawrence died of a heart attack in 1980.

De la Hunty was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on 26 January 2001 for service to the community, particularly in the areas of conservation, the environment and local government, and to athletics as an athlete, coach and administrator. She had been appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (Civil) (MBE) for services to athletics on 1 January 1957.

Her body was found on 16 February 2004 on her kitchen floor, but the coroner determined that she died on the evening of 11 February. There was no full autopsy and the coroner said the cause of death was "unascertainable", though "not inconsistent with natural causes".

She was honoured with a state funeral.

In 2005, some members of her family approached the coroner regarding the circumstances of her death. In 2006 an investigation was conducted by detectives from the major crime squad. In 2008 probate was granted after a dispute over her will was resolved in the Supreme Court.

Shirely Strickland Reserve in Applecross, a suburb of Western Australia is named in her honour.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Shirley Strickland de la Hunty - Full Interview Transcript". Australian Biography. Screen Australia Digital Learning. Retrieved 2011-08-30. 
  2. ^ a b Hughes, Dave (2004-02-21). "A champion of mind and body". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  3. ^ "Stawell Gift greatest-ever-moments countdown". The Stawell Times-News. 2006-04-11. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  4. ^ "AFL Player Statistics : Dave Strickland". AFL Statistics. Retrieved 2009-02-09. 
  5. ^ "Country News - Pithara, Dec. 19.". The West Australian. 1937-12-30. p. 5. Retrieved 2011-08-30. 
  6. ^ a b "Shirley Strickland de la Hunty". Leski Auctions. Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  7. ^ Stell 1991, p. 98

External links[edit]

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