What experience could the British team expect in Japan in 1964? There were certainly exciting opportunities for those ready to take up the challenge.
As hosts of the Olympics, Tokyo was ready to welcome the world’s elite athletes only 19 years after World War II had ended with the dropping of nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the stadium, the slow development of women’s athletics saw 400m and pentathlon being added to the programme. Women could now compete in 12 events at the Olympics, compared with 19 at WAAA championships, and with 24 on the men’s Olympic programme.
Remarkably, medals in 5 of the 12 women’s events would end up in the same room of the Olympic Village, won by 2 ESAA champions. Mary Rand’s performances in Tokyo really had to be seen to be believed. Her world record-breaking long jump of 6.76m to win the gold medal was measured out twice, once in her home town of Wells in Somerset, and once in the corridor of Buckingham Palace by royal command. It would remain the British record for 19 years. In Tokyo, Rand demonstrated the breadth of her talents which had been clear at ESAA championships from 1955-1957 where she had won gold and 2 silvers in the high and long jumps. She finished 2nd in the pentathlon in Tokyo, becoming only the second woman ever to score over 5000 points, and took a bronze in the sprint relay. Over the course of her career, she won 10 national titles, in 5 different events, and set a world best in the triple jump.
In the same room on the British corridor of the Olympic village was Ann Packer, who had enjoyed an even more varied career at ESAA championships than her room-mate. Packer’s first ESAA final was in the high jump as a junior in 1956 and she went on to win silvers in the 150 and 220 yards and gold in the 100 yards. Her senior national titles came in the long jump and 400m but none of these events would bring her Olympic gold. That came in the 800m, where Packer, in her first and only season at the event, ran a world record to take the Olympic title, having already secured silver in the 400m.