Mary Rand

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Mary Rand
Mary Rand 1966.jpg
Rand in 1966
Personal information
Born (1940-02-10) 10 February 1940 (age 79)
Wells, UK
Height1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight61 kg (134 lb)
ClubLondon Olympiades

Mary Denise Rand, MBE (née Bignal on 10 February 1940) is a former English track and field athlete. She won the long jump at the 1964 Summer Olympics by breaking the world record, the first British female to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field. She remains the only Great Britain female athlete to win three medals in a single Games.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Track and field is a sport which includes athletic contests established on the skills of running, jumping, and throwing. The name is derived from the sport's typical venue: a stadium with an oval running track enclosing a grass field where the throwing and some of the jumping events take place. Track and field is categorized under the umbrella sport of athletics, which also includes road running, cross country running, and race walking.

Long jump track and field event

The long jump is a track and field event in which athletes combine speed, strength and agility in an attempt to leap as far as possible from a take off point. Along with the triple jump, the two events that measure jumping for distance as a group are referred to as the "horizontal jumps". This event has a history in the Ancient Olympic Games and has been a modern Olympic event for men since the first Olympics in 1896 and for women since 1948.


Early life

Mary Rand is the daughter of Eric and Hilda Bignal. She was born and grew up in Wells, Somerset, England. At 16, Millfield School offered her an athletics scholarship. She excelled in all sports and won All-England Schools' titles. She was outstanding at high jump, long jump and hurdles. In 1956, she was a guest of the Olympic squad at a training camp in Brighton, where she beat Britain's best high jumpers.

Wells, Somerset cathedral city in Somerset, England

Wells is a cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. Although the population recorded in the 2011 census was only 10,536, and with a built-up area of just 3.245 square kilometres, Wells has had city status since medieval times, because of the presence of Wells Cathedral. Often described as England's smallest city, it is second only to the City of London in area and population, though not part of a larger urban agglomeration.

Somerset County of England

Somerset is a county in South West England which borders Gloucestershire and Bristol to the north, Wiltshire to the east, Dorset to the south-east and Devon to the south-west. It is bounded to the north and west by the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, its coastline facing southeastern Wales. Its traditional border with Gloucestershire is the River Avon. Somerset's county town is Taunton.

High jump track and field event

The high jump is a track and field event in which competitors must jump unaided over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without dislodging it. In its modern most practised format, a bar is placed between two standards with a crash mat for landing. In the modern era, athletes run towards the bar and use the Fosbury Flop method of jumping, leaping head first with their back to the bar. Since ancient times, competitors have introduced increasingly effective techniques to arrive at the current form.

Athletics career

At 17, Rand set a British record of 4046 points in the pentathlon. [1] She won a silver medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games long jump and came fifth in the high jump. One month later she came seventh in the European pentathlon championship.

1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games 6th edition of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games

The 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Cardiff, Wales, from 18–26 July 1958.

Pentathlon combined sporting event of five contests

A pentathlon is a contest featuring five events. The name is derived from Greek: combining the words pente (five) and -athlon (competition). The first pentathlon was documented in Ancient Greece and was part of the Ancient Olympic Games. Five events were contested over one day for the Ancient Olympic pentathlon, starting with the long jump, javelin throwing, and discus throwing, followed by the stadion and wrestling. Pentathletes were considered to be among the most skilled athletes, and their training was often part of military service—each of the five events in the pentathlon was thought to be useful in war or battle.

In the 1960 Olympics in Rome, she set a British record of 6.33m in the qualifying round of the long jump, which if repeated, would have won a silver in the final. In the final she fouled two of the three jumps and finished ninth. She also finished fourth in the 80m hurdles. She won a bronze medal in the European championship long jump in 1962. [2]

1960 Summer Olympics Games of the XVII Olympiad, celebrated in Rome in 1960

The 1960 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held from August 25 to September 11, 1960, in Rome, Italy. The city of Rome had previously been awarded the administration of the 1908 Summer Olympics, but following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906, Rome had no choice but to decline and pass the honour to London.

Rome Capital city and comune in Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Rand set an Olympic record in the long jump in the qualifying rounds, jumping 6.52m. In the final she beat the favourite, world record holder Tatyana Schelkanova of the USSR and Poland's Irena Kirszenstein. Her first jump of 6.59m was a British record. However, in the fifth round, on a wet runway with a headwind of 1.6 metres a second, she broke the world record, leaping 6.76m to take gold. Her record lasted four years until it was broken at altitude by Viorica Viscopoleanu in the subsequent Olympics.

1964 Summer Olympics Games of the XVIII Olympiad, celebrated in Tokyo in 1964

The 1964 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVIII Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Tokyo, Japan, from 10 to 24 October 1964. Tokyo had been awarded the organization of the 1940 Summer Olympics, but this honour was subsequently passed to Helsinki because of Japan's invasion of China, before ultimately being cancelled because of World War II.

Tokyo Metropolis in Kantō

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2018, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.

The first world record in the women's long jump was recognised by the Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale (FSFI) in 1922. The FSFI was absorbed by the International Association of Athletics Federations in 1936.

Rand won silver medal in the pentathlon, her 5035 points putting her second in the all-time rankings. She was beaten to the gold by Irina Press, whose biological sex has been the subject of speculation.[ citation needed ] She also won a bronze as a member of the Great Britain team that finished third in the 4×100 metres relay. [3]

Irina Press Soviet athlete

Irina Natanovna Press was a multitalented Soviet athlete who competed at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics. In 1960 she won a gold medal in the 80 m hurdles and finished fourth in the 4 × 100 m relay. In 1964 she finished fourth in the hurdles and sixth in the shot put, but won gold in the newly introduced pentathlon event.

Six days after Rand won the gold medal, her roommate Ann Packer won the 800 metres. Packer said: "Mary was the most gifted athlete I ever saw. She was as good as athletes get, there has never been anything like her since. And I don't believe there ever will."

Rand was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1965 New Year's Honours List and voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 1964.

After Tokyo, her training was less intensive, but she won a gold the long jump at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. Due to injury, she failed to make the 1968 British Olympic team and retired in September that year.

Rand also held the world record in the triple jump from 1959 to 1981; it was unofficial as a world record in the women's triple jump was not recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations until 1990. [4]

There is a plaque commemorating the world record long jump (6.76 metres) by Rand at the 1964 Olympic Games in the Market Place in Wells. She was succeeded as Golden Girl of British athletics by her friend and London Olympiades club-mate, Lillian Board.

In 2009, Rand was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.

On 26 January 2012 Wells awarded her the Freedom of the City, following a campaign started by Wells resident Tony Williams. [5]

Personal life

Bignal with Eef Kamerbeek in 1960 Mary Rand and Eef Kamerbeek 1960b.jpg
Bignal with Eef Kamerbeek in 1960

Around 1960 Bignal dated Dutch decathlete Eef Kamerbeek. In 1961 she met rower Sid Rand. Three days after meeting she agreed to marry him and they married five weeks later. [6] They had a daughter, Alison. The marriage lasted five years.

In December 1969, she married her second husband, American Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympics' decathlon champion. This marriage lasted 22 years and they had two daughters, Samantha and Sarah. She later married John Reese and lives with him in Atascadero, California, in the United States. [7] She holds dual UK/US citizenship. [8]

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  1. "Her name was Mary". Archived from the original on 18 May 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-13.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link).
  2. Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Mary Bignal-Rand". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC.
  3. Sporting Heroes biography. Retrieved on 6 December 2013.
  4. Huw Silk; graphic by Caroline Dewar (13 July 2012). "Hard to beat: longest held athletic records – interactive". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2012.
  5. "Olympic star Mary Rand given freedom of the city of Wells". BBC. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012.
  6. "Mary Rand". Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-14.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Retrieved on 6 December 2013.
  7. Martin, David "RAND WAS BORN TO WIN". Archived from the original on 12 February 2002. Retrieved 2017-06-04.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Sporting Life
  8. "Where are they now? Mary Rand (athletics)" (PDF). Archived from the original on 27 February 2008. Retrieved 2007-06-14.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). The Olympian. Winter 2004. p. 7
Preceded by
Tatyana Shchelkanova
Women's Long Jump World Record Holder
1964-10-14 – 1968-10-14
Succeeded by
Viorica Viscopoleanu
Preceded by
Rie Yamaguchi
Women's Triple Jump World Record Holder
Not officially ratified by the IAAF

1959-06-18 – 1981-05-09
Succeeded by
Terri Turner