Norman, Decima (1909–1983)
Norman, Decima (1909–1983)
Australian track star. Name variations: Clara Decima Hamilton. Born Clara Decima on September 9, 1909, in Tammin, Western Australia; died on August 29, 1983; adopted daughter of Francis Norman and Elizabeth Norman; attended Perth College; married Eric Hamilton (a former rugby player); no children.
Born on September 9, 1909, in Tammin, Western Australia, Decima Norman first became noted for her athletic and track skills while attending Perth College. Even though Norman posted times superior to most other track athletes qualifying for the 1936 Olympics, she was ignored by Australian Olympic officials because Western Australia did not have an official athletics association to act as her sponsor. Norman apparently formed the Western Australian Women's Amateur Athletic Association in 1936 to enable women to enter competition as members of a registered club, although there are no official records of its existence.
Norman became famous at the 1938 Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games), in which 15 countries and 464 athletes competed in Sydney. At the age of 29, which was considered advanced by track standards, Norman won five gold medals: in the individual 100 yards, 220 yards, and broad (long) jump, and as a team member on the 440- and 660-yard medley relays. She trained in Sydney for the state championships in 1939, where she set an Australian record for the 90-yard hurdles and won the broad jump despite having little training in the sport. Norman planned to compete in the 1940 Olympics, but World War II cancelled the competition and ended her athletic career.
Decima Norman went on to become an astute businesswoman with interests in a restaurant and a night club. She actively campaigned for sports, particularly women's sports, in Western Australia, and also supported women athletes with personal donations, advice, and fundraising. For her services to sports, Norman was awarded an MBE. She married former New Zealand Rugby Union footballer Eric Hamilton, and the couple eventually retired to Albany, Western Australia. In 1982, she was appointed official custodian of the baton of the Royal Commonwealth Games, flying from Australia to England to receive it from Queen Elizabeth II . Norman died of cancer one year later, on August 29, 1983. In 1986, the Western Australian Institute of Sport inducted her into its year-old Hall of Champions.
Radi, Heather, ed. 200 Australian Women: A Redress Anthology. NSW, Australia: Women's Redress Press, 1988.
Vamplew, Wray, et al., eds. The Oxford Companion to Australian Sport. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Jacqueline Mitchell , freelance writer, Detroit, Michigan