Without much doubt, Raelene Boyle was the fastest drug-free female sprinter of her time. The pity is that she doesn’t have the right gold medal to prove it. During a 14-year career which established her as a worthy successor to the great sprinters Marjorie Jackson, Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland, she really deserved to have won Olympic gold. Instead she had to settle for three silver medals, and a lot of frustrating memories. At the Munich 1972 Olympics she was beaten twice by an East German athlete who was later proved to have taken part in a doping program. And four years later, in her target event at the Montreal Olympics, the 200m, Boyle was disqualified after being ruled guilty of two false starts… the first of them questionable.
She was always a fighter, possessed of an irrepressible, larrikin spirit that sometimes got her into trouble but also enabled her to bounce back from harsh and varied setbacks. Just 17, she finished second in the Mexico 1968 City Olympic 200m, beaten by the great Irena Swezinska, of Poland. Her victor in the 100m and 200m in Munich was Renate Stecher, whose credibility was later stained by drug allegations. Her disqualification in Montreal came after she attempted to protest against a starter’s call she was convinced was wrong. She was Australia’s only track medallist, male or female, between 1968 and 1980. She was honoured in two Olympic Opening Ceremonies, carrying the Australian flag in Montreal and joining other female legends in 2000. In personal battles with cancer since 1996, Boyle’s fighting spirit has served her well.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian