Taylor, Betty (1916–1977)

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Taylor, Betty (1916–1977)

Canadian athlete who ran the 60- and 80-meter hurdles. Born Elizabeth Taylor on February 22, 1916; died on February 2, 1977; raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; attended McMaster University in Hamilton.

Betty Taylor began her career as one of Canada's leading track-and-field champions in 1930, at age 14. She competed in the Canadian women's track-and-field championships, held in conjunction with the British Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario, and won the 60-meter hurdles event at the intermediate level. That August, as part of the Hamilton Olympic Club, Taylor competed in the junior category (because she was under 16) at the provincial championship meet and won the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 9.9 seconds, beating the intermediate time of 10.4 seconds. Prevented by the high cost of traveling from defending her Canadian title in 1931 at the championships held in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, she continued to compete for the Hamilton Olympic Club at meets around Ontario.

Taylor's first senior-level competition came in 1932 at the Canadian Olympic trials, where she finished second in the 80-meter hurdles finals. Although the team finished second overall at the Olympics, Taylor was eliminated in the preliminary heats. In the summer of 1933, however, she again rose to the top by winning the 80-meter hurdles at the senior level at the nationals with a time of 12.4 seconds—more than a second faster than the previous year and 15 yards ahead of her nearest competitor.

In 1934, when Taylor was 18, she competed on the Canadian team at the British Empire Games and the Women's World Games, both held in London, England. During the trials, she and teammate Roxy Atkins tied and set a new Canadian record of 11.9 seconds for their event. At the Empire Games, Taylor won her preliminary heat and finished second in the final. During the Women's World Games, Taylor once again came in second, but ran the best race of her career. These races helped her to earn a reputation for being able to perform well under pressure against tough competition. Both Canadian and European critics praised her for her hurdling technique.

After returning to Canada, Taylor entered McMaster University in Hamilton on an athletic scholarship and became an honors student. While in college she participated in many sports, but also remained active in the Hamilton Olympic Club. In 1935, she again won the Canadian championship, coming from behind to beat Roxy Atkins. Defending her Ontario and national titles in 1936, she qualified for the Olympic team and was elected the team's captain. In Berlin, she was dubbed "Beautiful Betty" and once again performed well. In the semifinal heat she tied the world record of 11.7 seconds. However, in the finals, while in the lead, she was bumped by the hurdler in the lane next to her and knocked off stride. She managed to finish in the top four, a group so close together that the three medal winners were all given the same time. Although she was first thought to have placed fourth, a review of official photographs resulted in her winning the bronze medal.

In December 1936, Taylor was nominated for the Lou Marsh Trophy, an award for Canada's outstanding athlete, male or female, professional or amateur. Although she did not win this award, later that month she won the Canadian Press Award given by Canadian sportswriters. Also a winner of the Velma Springstead Memorial Trophy for the outstanding Canadian female athlete from the Women's Federation, Taylor was named the best Canadian female athlete of 1936. The last award during her career came in February 1937, when she was given the President's Prize by the Hamilton Olympic Club for being the club's outstanding athlete of 1936.

After receiving the award from her club, Taylor announced her retirement. Notes Cathy MacDonald: "During her tenure as Canada's premier hurdler [Taylor] continued the Canadian tradition of athletic excellence and was an important participant in the golden age of women's sport in Canada."


MacDonald, Cathy. "Hamilton's Hurdler—Betty Taylor," in Canadian Woman Studies. Vol. 4, no. 3. Spring—May 1983, pp. 10–21.

Karina L. Kerr , M.A., Ypsilanti, Michigan

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