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  Track & Field Athletics Australia    by Graham Thomas 

Profile - Winsome Cripps


Winsome Cripps - 1954

  • Born 
  • Australia/Victoria & **

    Winsome Cripps began to be noticed as a promising sprinter in the 1949/50 season.  She continued to improve through to 1952 where she was selected in the Olympic Games.

    Cripps had an unlucky competition.  She was fourth, just missing a medal, in both 100m and 200m and then suffered the misfortune of the dropped baton in the 4x100m relay, when Australia were leading.

Winsome Cripps was not considered to be one of Victoria's best sprinters in the 1949/50 season, but she was the only Victorian to reach the final of the 100y in the 1950 Australian Championships, despite twisting her ankle in training a few weeks before the titles.

After this mild success, Cripps improved slowly until she finally won her first state title until 1952.  Her times had dramatically improved during the 1951/51 season and she was considered a chance of making the Olympic team.

She proved her ability in the 1952 National Championships, in Melbourne, with a third place in the 100y, behind Empire Games stars Marjorie Jackson and Shirley Strickland.  In the 220y, she took silver behind Jackson and was duly nominated in the Australian team for the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.

Cripps, Jackson, Strickland and Western Australian Verna Johnston were the only women athletes nominated in the Olympic team and were expected to challenge for a Gold Medal in the 4x100m relay as well as compete in their individual events.  The Australians showed they were in good form by setting a World Record of 46.9 for the 4x110y relay in London, just before the Olympics.  

Once in Helsinki, Cripps won her heat of the 100m to progress easily to the semi-finals.  She ran well again, placing second, in the semi-final to join her two Australian team-mates in the Olympic final.  She ran well in the final, but was just pipped by Shirley Strickland for the bronze medal.

In the 200m, again, she ran well throughout the rounds and was just beaten by a whisker in the Olympic final.  Her time of 24.2 for fourth was equal to both the silver and bronze medallists.

Cripps' chance of Olympic Gold looked almost certain to come in the final of the 4x100m relay after Australia had smashed the World Record in winning their heat in 46.1.

In the final Strickland and Johnston got Australia off to a good start, and the team was clearly leading as Cripps ran swiftly around the tight bend of the Helsinki track.  Jackson took the baton clearly from Cripps but, as Cripps pulled up, her knee hit the baton from Jackson's hand.  

Though the baton bounced back and Jackson caught it, precious time had been lost.  Jackson recovered to finish the race in fifth place, but the Gold had been lost through sheer bad luck.  It was little consolation to the Australian team that, shortly after the Games, they beat the Olympic champions, the USA, and set a new World Record of 46.3 for 4x110y relay.

At the same meet Cripps and Marjorie Jackson teamed with South African sprinters Daphne Hasenjager and Edna Maskell, as a British Empire team, to set a world best for 4x220y of 1-38.7 and also beat the USA.  But because of the mixed nationality of the Empire team, the US time of 1-40.0 became the new World Record.

Cripps' good form continued through until 1954, when the next Australian Championships were held, in Perth.  She ran third in the 100y, behind Jackson and the new sensation Marlene Mathews, but took second in the 220y, ahead of the newcomer.  

She was immediately named in the Empire Games team for that year and competed with success at the Games in Vancouver.  She won two silver medals in the 100y and 220y, behind Marjorie Jackson on each occasion and won a gold as part of Australia's successful 4x110y relay team.

Cripps continued to compete, aiming at another Olympic campaign in her home town of Melbourne in 1956, and ran some fast times leading into the 1956 National Championships.  At these titles, running as Mrs Dennis, she could not make the final of the 100y and only finished sixth in the 220y final.

At the Olympic trials, held later in the year, Cripps-Dennis again just missed making the final and lost her chance at running in her second Olympic Games.  Dennis retired from athletics shortly afterwards.  She died in 199. 

More about Winsome Cripps - COMING SOON!!

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