Jackson, Marjorie (1931—)

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Jackson, Marjorie (1931—)

Australian runner. Name variations: Marjorie Nelson. Born Marjorie Jackson on September 13, 1931, in Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, Australia; brought up in Lithgow; married Peter Nelson (an Olympic cyclist), in 1953 (died 1977).

Set four world records (1950); won sprints at the Auckland British Empire games (1950); won Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters (1952); tied world and Olympic records in the 100 meters with 11.5 second time (1952); improved the 100-meter mark to 11.4 seconds (1952); set and broke the 200-meter world record with 23.6 second and 23.4 second times (1952); broke the world 100-yard mark three times (1950, 1951, 1958); won gold medals in the 100-yard, 220-yard, and 4x110-yard relay at Vancouver Commonwealth Games (1954).

Australian champion Marjorie Jackson had to prepare for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, in the "Lithgow fog" of New South Wales by lighting up the track with beams from car lights. In 1949, the 18-year-old runner had beaten Fanny Blankers-Koen in a 100-meter race in Sydney. Having set four world records in 1950, Jackson was known as the Lithgow flash. In Helsinki, she took both sprints, becoming the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field. She won the 100 meters with a world record 11.5, while her teammate Shirley Strickland arrived third for the bronze. "It was a terrific moment," said Jackson. "To stand on the dais and know that for fifty-six years you were the first one to put the flag up there.… I always felt that one was for Australia, the second one was for me."

In the 200 meters, Jackson's time was 23.7, tying a 17-year-old record set by Stella Walsh . Her closest competitor, Bertha Brouwer of the Netherlands, was four yards behind her. Jackson's only bad moment was dropping the baton in the 4x100 relay, with the Australians in the lead. The U.S. team, spurred by Mae Faggs , took the gold, while the Australians came in fifth. On returning home, Jackson was named Australia Broadcasting's Sportsman of the Year, elected to the Helms Hall of Fame in 1952, and was awarded the MBE in 1953. After another successful year in 1954, she retired at 22.

After her husband Peter Nelson, an Olympic cyclist, died of leukemia in 1977, Jackson founded the Peter Nelson Leukaemia Appeal in honor of his courage. Six years later, she had raised about 75% of its million-dollar objective. Jackson saw her talents as a gift from God and felt that lending her famous name to the Appeal was a way of returning that gift.


Hemery, David. The Pursuit of Sporting Excellence. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books, 1986.

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Jackson, Marjorie (1931—)

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