Shirley de la Hunty
1925 - 2004
Shirley Strickland won seven Olympic sprinting and hurdling medals --- three gold, one silver and three bronze medals --- through the Games of 1948, 1952 and 1956. In truth, she deserved one more. In 1948 in London she was wrongly judged to have finished fourth in the 200m final; a photo finish of the race --- not consulted at the time, but discovered in 1975 --- showed beyond doubt that Strickland had actually finished third. As it was, her tally of seven women’s track-and-field medals remained a solo record from 1956 until equalled in 1976 by Irena Szewinska, of Poland. Merlene Ottey, of Jamaica, also reached seven in 1996, and went on to win an eighth medal in a sprint relay in Sydney in 2000.
Born at Guildford, WA, the daughter of a Stawell Gift winner, Strickland was a woman of exceptional spirit. After the 1948 London Games - at which she won a silver medal in the sprint relay and bronze in both the 80m hurdles and the 100m sprint - she was advised by her coach that it was time to retire. She was 23, dedicated and defiant. She thanked him for the advice, and ignored it. In Helsinki she won the 80m hurdles, setting two world records and defeating her London conqueror, Fanny Blankers-Koen. She also was a member of the world record-breaking Australian relay sprint team, which lost a baton in the final. At the Melbourne 1956 Olympics, by then a mother of two, she won gold again in the hurdles, and was a member of the winning relay team.
She remains the nation’s only track and field athlete, male or female, to have won back-to-back gold medals.
Harry Gordon, AOC historian