1948 Olympics

The Second World War put a stop to athletics meetings. The first WAAA meeting of the 1940s took place at Tooting Bec in August 1945. Despite being barely later than VJ day, and in spite of the damage to the capital the WAAA were still able to organise an effective meeting.

1948 saw the return of the Olympic Games, this time in London twelve years after the previous Games, Berlin 1936. One British athlete to medal at both was high jumper Dorothy Tyler (nee Odam), whose shot at gold was undone each time by changes in the regulations, meaning she had to settle for silver at both Games.

Details from some of the competitors provide a fascinating insight into athlete preparation for the Games at the time. Dorothy Manley who took silver in the 100m, worked as a shorthand typist for the Suez Canal Company, fitting training around her work. She used her holiday allowance to be able to compete at the Olympics. Competitors were given a blazer and skirt for the opening ceremony, but Dorothy’s mother sewed her running kit for her.

Hurdler Maureen Gardner bought her own hurdles to the practice track ahead of her race as there were no hurdles available. Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers-Koen, who won four golds at the 1948 Games, recalls asking Maureen if she could have a practice over her hurdles ahead of the competition. When it came down to the final itself Blankers-Koen just edged the win, she started badly but managed to catch Gardner at the fifth hurdle, taking to the gold in 11.2 seconds with Gardner taking silver.

Detail of 1948 London Olympic Poster.
From private collection.
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