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  Track & Field Athletics Australia    by Graham Thomas 

Profile - Joyce Walker


Joyce Walker - 1938

  • Born 04 January 1921
  • Australia/NSW & **

    Joyce Walker was just seventeen when she won a silver medal behind Decima Norman in the 1938 Empire Games 100y final.

    In 1939 she equalled the world record of 11.0 for 100y in beating Norman at the NSW State Championships.

    Later in 1942 she set a mysterious world record of 24.1 for 220y, running at Swan Hill. For unknown reasons, this time was never accepted as an Australian or world record.

Fair-haired, blue-eyed Sydney girl Joyce Walker first came to attention of athletics fans in 1937.  She had shown impressive form in NSW Interclub meets, but surprised everyone by taking out the 1937 NSW 100y Championship.  This achievement resulted in her selection the NSW Team for the 1937 National Championships, which doubled as Empire Games trials.

Walker did not run well in these Championships, held in cold and windy conditions, in Melbourne.  She was unplaced in her heat of the 220y and could not make the final.  She did better in the 100y, winning her heat, but could only place fourth in the final.

Joyce was not named in the very small Empire Games team announced shortly after these Championships, but was pleased to hear she had been named in a larger squad selected a little later.  Because the Games were  being held on Australian soil, it was decided that all available places should be filled.  This benefited women from New South Wales, and a number of Sydney athletes took their places on the team.

One of them was 17 year old Joyce Walker, who surprised most with a game silver medal in the 100y behind the all-conquering Decima Norman.  Walker's defeat of world record-holder Barbara Burke (South Africa), who placed third, showed the quality of her run.  This was Walker's only run of the Games, but she was considered to be a great future prospect, with the 1940 Olympic Games not far away.

As a young teenager, Walker had attended the Burwood Domestic Science School but after school, she had gained employment with a printing firm.  She was assisted in her endeavours by her employer, who did not keep her late, so she could train regularly.  She was coached by Harry Cheney and they concentrated on lots of starts and finishing dips in training.  Walker's motto was 'early to bed' and she maintained a plain diet when training.

Using this basic strategy, Walker continued to improve during the 1938/39 season, defeating Decima Norman, amongst others, over 100y and 220y races in Sydney.  In the 1939 NSW Championships Walker won the sprint double in fine style.  Her time of 11.0, to beat Norman in the 100y, equalled the World Record, while her 220y win in 25.2 was the fastest mark by an Australian except for Decima Norman's times at the 1938 Empire Games.

Norman, Walker and Empire Games 220y silver-medallist Jean Coleman were considered to be a potential gold medal Olympic relay team (with the addition of another athlete) and, in March 1939, Mrs Doris Magee announced that the women's association would try to raise their own funds to assure that a full relay squad could travel to the Games.

This ambitious plan was thwarted six months later, when World War II broke out.  The 1940 Olympics - which had already been moved from Tokyo to Helsinki because of the international situation - were soon cancelled.

Joyce Walker retained her NSW 100y/220y Championships in 1940, but did not attend the National Championships, which were held in Perth that year.  The next year, she again retained the sprint double, winning the 220y in 25.4 which was announced as an Australian record.  This bemused Walker as she had run 25.2 in 1939 but neglected to claim a record, knowing that Decima Norman had run faster, three times, during the 1938 Empire Games. 

In 1941, Walker won the sprint treble as she extended her repertoire to the 440y.  Her winning time of 60.0 equalled Clarice Kennedy's state record but was disallowed due to wind assistance.

In May 1941, an interstate challenge was conducted at Swan Hill in country Victoria.  Joyce Walker had been invited to race Kate Treleaven (Victoria) and Joan Dansie (SA) over 100y and 220y.  Walker was said to have run some fast trials in Sydney just prior to her departure for Swan Hill, and was confident of establishing really good times. 

She won the 100y in a good 11.5, but it was her phenomenal performance in the 220y which attracted the headlines.  Her winning time of 24.1 (taken on 'several watches') beat Treleaven by over six yards and also beat the listed World Record.  Though Walker's performance was listed by some as the National and World Record (awaiting ratification) for the next couple of years, it remained unratified for reasons unknown.

After defending her NSW State Championships sprint treble in 1942, Joyce Walker retired from athletics.

MORE Joyce Walker - COMING SOON!!

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