Johnston started competing in WA interclub during the 46/47 season and had
immediate success, setting state junior records over 75y (8.8) and 100y (11.5).
At interclub sprints she ran Shirley Strickland close in a number of
races and also started to train for the Long Jump.
year-old girl, from a
little farm at Dangin, 123 miles from Perth, had become Western
Australia’s number two athlete by January 1948 and was selected for
the 100y, 220y and Long Jump at the 1948 Nationals, to be held in
the latter event, she placed second, only 1” behind Judy Canty, who
was selected in the Olympic team and made the Olympic final in London.
Strangely, Johnston does not seem to have been seriously
considered for an Olympic berth in 1948.
She failed in the sprints, run on waterlogged grass tracks that
she was unaccustomed to.
Verna’s ‘flop’ in the sprints at these nationals almost
persuaded her to heed advice from others who said she should ‘stick
to jumping’, but Verna continued training hard and competing, with
success, in sprint events.
the 1948/49 season, Verna attracted attention when she beat Olympic
stars Shirley Strickland and Fanny Blankers-Koen over 100y in Perth.
Fanny’s coach and husband, Jan Blankers, declared that
Johnson was the best sprinter he had seen so far in Australia.
the 1950 Nationals, she ran well in the 100y, placing third behind
Marjorie Jackson, who set a world record, and Olympic bronze medallist
She also finished second in the Long Jump and fourth in the
These performances earned her a position in the 1950 Empire
the Games, she competed in the 100y (where she won a bronze medal),
the 220y (where she made the final) and the Long Jump (where she
In addition to these good solo performances, she ran well in
Australia's two relay teams which both won gold.
good form continued through 1952, and she became national Long Jump
champion, as well as running fourth in the 100y and third in the 220y.
She was one of only four women selected in the Australian
athletics team for the Helsinki Games, and was named to start in the
Long Jump and 4x100m relay.
made the final of the Long Jump, finishing a good eighth and ran two
good legs in Australia’s 4x100m relay team.
In the heat, she and the other Australians set a world record
to establish them as gold medal favourites.
in the final, with Australia in the lead and en route to another world
record, the baton was dropped and the Australians could only finish
It was little consolation to the Australians when they broke
the 4x110y relay world record soon after the Games.
Johnson retired at the end of 1953 because of ill health.
She had suffered with glandular fever through the year and was
exhausted and unable to train.
After discussions with her coach, she announced her retirement,
at the age of just 24.
More about Verna Johnston - COMING SOON!!