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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
defending her NSW State Championships sprint treble in 1942, Joyce
Walker retired from athletics.
Joyce Walker - COMING SOON!!