Norma Blaine MBE 1935 – 2021

Athlete, Coach, Administrator, Technical Official, WAAA Committee Member, Vice Chair of the WAAA, Founder Life Vice President of the AAA of England
Norma Blaine (centre) as a Birchfield Harrier’s athlete, circa 1952.
Photograph courtesy of Birchfield Harriers Archive

Norma Blaine joined Birchfield Harriers in 1951 as a 15-year-old. She was a successful racewalker in the 1950s and 60s, and although she stated that she ‘took to walking better than running’, also competed as a cross country runner in the 1950s. Training conditions were not always temperate, to combat this Norma and the other girls were advised by coach Dorrette Nelson-Neale, always known as ‘Nelson’, to pin brown paper inside their vests to stop the chill and to make sure they wore thick knickers in winter.

From the 1960s Blaine turned to coaching, club administration and officiating. As a coach, many Birchfield athletes who went on to great things, including Sue Scott, Mary Stewart and Denise Lewis passed through Norma’s cohort as under 15s. Lewis recalls;

Just a roll of the eye was enough to let you know you had stepped out of line. You need discipline in sport, and she definitely provided that, but she also has a heart of gold. She was so supportive, she wanted her girls to do well. She was always the first to put an arm around you when you didn’t do as well as you hoped.

Denise Lewis remembering Norma Blaine as a coach

Norma acted as Team Captain for multiple teams, from county level up to National, taking the Road Running team to Japan in 1992. She was also a senior technical official and track judge at the AAA championships for many years.

As an administrator and committee member Norma was key in developing women’s athletics in the UK. She was a Birchfield Committee member and was the first woman to be made Club Chair and then Club President which she held for two terms. She was WAAA Hon. Secretary for the Midlands, later Vice Chair of the WAAA. When the WAAA and AAA combined in 1991 Norma was made Founder Life Vice-President of the Amateur Athletic Association of England in recognition of her outstanding services to Amateur Athletics.

Two Birchfield Athletes from different generations, Norma Blaine with Kelly Sotherton taking a lap of honour in Birmingham, 2010
Photograph courtesy of Mark Shearman

In the same year Norma was elected to the Board of Management of the newly formed British Athletic Federation which brought the various governing bodies of athletics from across the UK under one umbrella for the first time, and she chaired the BAF’s Women’s Advisory Group for four years.

Blaine was awarded an MBE in 2010 for her services to athletics.