Glynis Nunn is the only Australian to have won an Olympic multi-discipline athletics event. In the boycott-affected 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, at which the five-event pentathlon was replaced by the seven-event heptathlon, she defeated the great American Jacqueline Joyner (later Joyner-Kersee) by three points. Nunn quit her job as a physical education teacher a year before the Games, after finishing seventh in the world heptathlon championship in Helsinki. The placegetters then were three East German women, all of them subsidised by the state to devote their time to athletic preparation. For three months afterwards Nunn went on the dole, which served as an unconventional equivalent to the East German scheme, allowing her to train without the distraction of having to earn a living. She felt uncomfortable, though – “I’m not a dole kind of person.” – and found a part-time job in a sports goods store. By Games-time she was 24, and had competed in athletics since the age of nine.
The turning point of the 1984 heptathlon was the long jump, normally Joyner’s great strength. But after fouling two attempts, she lunged into her final jump from well behind the take-off board, scoring disappointingly. By the final 800m event, Joyner was leading the field, but vulnerable. When Nunn beat her by 2.46 seconds in that race, it meant the Australian had scraped in for a remarkable victory. Nunn also finished seventh in the long jump and fifth in the 100m hurdles. Joyner went on to win the 1988 and 1992 Olympic heptathlon gold medals, plus the long jump in 1988.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian