Britain’s Olympic Greats – Mary Rand MBE

Labour Party

This week former athlete Mary Rand was granted the freedom of the city of her birth Wells, Somerset. This long called for recognition comes almost 50 years after her astounding achievements at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.

In Tokyo, Mary Rand was the first ever British female to win a gold medal in a track and field event. This achievement came just two years after the birth of her first daughter.

Smashing the previous world record, Mary took the gold medal in the long jump with a jump of 6.76 meters. Mary was the first Brit to break a world record at the Olympics since 1932. That year at the games Mary also took home a silver medal for the pentathlon and bronze in the 4×100 meter relay.

Mary’s path to success was not an easy one. Her record in Tokyo was set 4 years after massive disappointment at the Rome Olympics where, after setting a British long jump record in the qualifying round, she fouled twice in the final and came ninth.

1964 was also the year that Mary was voted BBC sports personality of the year. Given this year’s disgraceful absence of women from the BBC’s shortlist it is surprising to be reminded that in the sixties almost half of the winners were women.

Whilst much of the furore over last year’s award has now died down I am still disgusted that not a single woman made the shortlist. That ‘lads mags’ Nuts and Zoo, who could be said to trade in the objectification of women, participated in the nominations, is just one more example of the pervasive sexism in the media highlighted in the Leveson inquiry.

1964 was a particular high point in Mary’s illustrious career, but was far from the only success. Mary also broke British records in pentathlon and won medals at the 1958 Commonwealth Games and European Championships.

Fellow Olympian Brendan Foster has said that Mary was an inspiration to female athletes.