Marjorie Jackson-Nelson was a breaker of barriers. She was the first Australian female runner to break a world record. She was the first Australian woman to win an Olympic athletics gold medal, indeed the first of either gender to win gold on the track since Edwin Flack (1896). And she was the first female manager of an entire national team - the 500-strong Australian contingent at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.
She finished her career with two Olympic and seven Commonwealth Games gold medals, 10 world sprint records and every state and national title she contested from 1950 to 1954. But it was her performance at the 1952 Helsinki Games that entranced the nation. She went there as “the Lithgow Flash”, and won both the 100 and 200 metres gold medals, equalling a world record in the 100m and setting two in the 200m. It was confidently expected that she would collect another gold medal, along with other members of the women’s sprint relay team, Shirley Strickland, Winsome Cripps and Verna Johnston. They won their heat easily, setting a world record - but at the last change in the final, the baton was lost. The memory still hurts.
Jackson’s other great prize from Helsinki was the love of her life, cyclist Peter Nelson, whom she met on the plane trip to the Games and wed in 1953. He died in 1977 from leukemia, and she has spent much of her time since raising funds for leukemia research. She became Governor of South Australia in 2001.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian