The seventh national women's
championships were held at Leederville Oval in Perth, Western
Australia on 8, 9 and 11 March 1940.
The WA women's association had only formed in 1936 and these 1940
National Championships were the first interstate event conducted in
Perth. Because of the great distance to Perth and associated costs,
participant numbers declined from 1937.
West Australian star Decima Norman, now competing for NSW, returned
home to Perth to star in these championships. Other outstanding
performers included Irene Dowsey, Cora Hannan and Lola Foster
(pictured at right, in newspaper article).
Victorian athletes won six events and, as a result, the Doris Mulchahy
Shield for most successful state.
Champion and Empire Games gold medalist Decima Norman was entered in
both 100y and 220y in Perth but did not start. Her withdrawal opened
up both events and there was no clear favourite. Until late the
outbreak of World War II and the cancellation of the Olympic Games,
the women's association had planned to send a relay team - based
around Decima Norman - to the Tokyo Games. With Olympic selection a
moot point, leading sprinters Joyce Walker and Eileen Wearne did not
bother travelling to Perth for these titles.
Young Victorian champion Lola Foster won the first heat in a windy
11.3 by inches from local Merle Stoltze. Close behind was Valda Jones
also making it through to the final. In the second heat there were
complaints that both Jean Coleman and Irene Talbot beat the gun.
Regardless, they were allowed to complete the race and qualify for the
final. Coleman’s wind-assisted time was a swift 11.1, beating Talbot
by a yard with a further half-yard to local champion Joan Woodland.
At 3.40 on Saturday afternoon on 9 March, the six women lined up to
race the championship final. The track was good, conditions were cool
although the women were running into a slight headwind. Nineteen year
old Foster, running in the outside lane won by a foot from Coleman.
The rest of the field, headed by Irene Talbot, were close behind, and
all within four feet of each other.
Foster (left) pipped Jean Coleman in the 100y sprint.
were held on the 7th March after the 100y heats. Lola Foster made it
two wins in two starts with her win in heat one. She beat the favoured
Jean Coleman by inches in 26.0. A yard behind Coleman, Valda Jones of
NSW made her second sprint final in third place.
Irene Talbot of Victoria, who had not run well in the Empire Games in
1938, won the second heat comprehensively in 25.6 . There were
complaints that she had got a three yard flyer after a poor start but
she was awarded the race by 2 ½ yards from another Empire Games
sprinter Joan Woodland of Perth. A second Perth teenager, Rae Bercone,
ran third, another two and a half yards behind Woodland and also made
The final was conducted two days later and for the first half of the
race, there seemed to be little between the six runners. Into the
straight, Irene Talbot, the fastest qualifier, suffering from a bad
cold went ‘blind’ and could not complete the race. This left Jean
Coleman, on the inside, and 100y champion Lola Foster, on the outside
to battle out the finish. Jean Coleman managed to prevail by just over
a yard in 25.9. A yard behind Foster, home town girl Joan Woodland
held off Valda Jones for third place.
1940, the 440y championship was held for only the second time. During
the thirties, record breakers such as Thelma Peake and Clarice Kennedy
had been unable to achieve national honours in this event. Over twenty
years later the event finally became a standard event in international
Defending champion Jean Coleman did not compete in the 440y in Perth,
preferring to concentrate on the shorter sprints. Irene Talbot was the
nominal favourite and expected to be challenged by two improving
newcomers from Perth.
Two hours before the 440y final, Irene Talbot had run third in the
100y final. In this event she sprinted out fast and was a clear leader
at the half way mark, seven yards ahead of Margaret Orr.
From here she hand on grimly, even when local Betty Judge passed Orr
and challenged Talbot in the straight. The Victorian champion had
enough strength to hold on and win by 2ft from Judge. Third placed Orr
was a further ten feet behind, just ahead of Flo Green.
Talbot (right) just beats Betty Judge in the 440y
their duel in the WA Champs, Brenda Judge and Margaret Orr were
expected to be close rivals again.
Victorian Flo Green, after being squeezed back to last shortly after
the start of the race, sprinted to the front of the pack and proceeded
to lead through the first lap ahead of Mitchell, Peake, Orr, Faulkner
and Judge. The runners continued running Indian-file until the
final 300y where Margaret Orr made her move.
the back straight the free-flowing local runner Margaret Orr
challenged and, passing Green easily, looked to be the likely winner.
With the race all but over, Betty Judge began a long sprint for home.
About fifteen yards from the line she caught her arch-rival and went
on to break the tape first and win by about two feet.
Queensland’s veteran all-rounder Thelma Peake was a further five
yards back. This was the only national championship 880y Peake was
ever able to compete in. She won ten straight Queensland titles in
this event through the thirties and would have been favoured to win a
national 880y championship earlier in her career, had the event been
contested at the nationals.
The event was actually barred at the Olympics for thirty years before
being reinstated in 1960.
year old Betty Judge had set an Australian record of 2-24.7 to beat
Orr (2-25.3e) a few weeks earlier in Perth. The two West Australian
women had traded victories throughout the 1939/40 WA season and both
had helped demolish the state record.
Judge had excelled in both academic and sporting endeavours through
her schooling. She was interschool champion in 1938 for Perth Modern
School and started competing in interclub athletics for the Perth
Club. In 1940 she commenced study towards her Bachelor of Arts at
Perth University. She was coached by Frank Preston, who discovered and
trained Decima Norman, for four years and then started coaching
herself. She reportedly trained on a diet of underdone steak and two
hours before her races swallowed a concoction of raw eggs beaten with
This was the only national championship for Betty Judge. She studied
at Perth University during the war years and, though competing
infrequently herself, provided coaching assistance to young athletes.
One of these athletes was the future Olympic champion and world
record-holder Shirley Strickland. Judge helped re-start the WA
women’s association in 1946/47 and even raced some more times
against her old rival Margaret Orr, now married as Margaret Troode.
Judge retired in 1947 when she married the politician Kim Beasley. In
1948 she became a mother with the arrival of a son Kim Junior.
Fifty years later, Betty's son, became the leader of the Federal
Opposition in Australia.
heats were required as only six women had entered the event. The
favourite looked to be former sprint champion Decima Norman who had
started to train seriously for the hurdles and recently won the NSW
Championship in record time.
In the championship race. held at 3.50 on Monday afternoon, Decima
Norman held a slight advantage from start to finish and never looked
likely to be beaten. She beat Doris Carter by 1yd and her time was
announced to be a new Australian record of 12.0 seconds. This sliced
0.1 off her own national best and was worth around 11.7 for the
slightly shorter international distance of 80m Hurdles.
Defending champion Isobel Grant was not at her best due to a groin
strain and could only finish third, another yard behind her Victorian
team mate, Doris Carter. Carter had a busy afternoon, also winning the
High Jump and Discus events.
Olympic finalist Doris Carter won a record
fifth Australian title in Perth during these championships. She had
been a little below her best high jumping standard since the Berlin
Games, but her victory here was hardly in doubt.
After she cleared 1.52 and eventual runner-up Hilda Mott-Williams
failed, Carter did not attempt further heights. She was also competing
in the Discus and Hurdles finals (she won the former and came second
in the latter) and later was asked to run in the relay unexpectedly.
Local girl Phyllis Howe did well to place third but was behind her WA
record of 1.48 set in February. Australia's number two, Enid Soult, the
NSW Champion at 1.498m did not compete - only a small team of five
women made the long trip to Perth.
Games bronze medallist Thelma Peake of Queensland was going for her
fourth consecutive national long jump title, but was not favoured to
beat the Empire Games champion in the 1940 event.
Norman's best long jump was 5.80, set during the Empire Games final in
1938 and Peake's personal best was 5.66 from 1937. The duo were both
of international standard and were unlucky that the 1940 Olympics were
cancelled. The Long Jump (and the Shot Putt) had been scheduled to
make their debuts as Olympic championship events in 1940.
In a solid series of jumping, Norman's best and winning leap was just
9cm behind her Australian record. She also had two jumps of
5.40m/17’ 8 ¾ during her series. Thelma Peake could not improve her
best to challenge Norman but comfortably took second place with her
best leap of 5.32.
Merle Stoltze was behind her best of 5.48m set two weeks earlier, but
still took third place with her 5.16m effort, just beating
Queenslander Hilda Mott-Williams on countback.
Norman (above) took Thelma Peake's Long Jump crown in Perth
Cora Hannan, the inaugural Australian champion from 1933, set the
scene in the first round with a solid putt to lead the competition.
Local favourite Emily Clifford was expected to star but could not beat
her fourth round effort of 9.18m. She seemed to suffer from nerves,
competing in the first final of the afternoon.
Two days later Clifford threw 9.76 to beat Hannan (9.52) and Mitchell
(9.28) in a specially arranged invitation event.
En route to Perth for the titles, the NSW and Victorian teams stopped
in Kalgoorlie. The athletes were treated to a surprise gala reception
by local officials and townspeople. The reception was in honour of
Cora Hannan as officials had learned she was the grand-daughter of
Paddy Hannan who helped establish Kalgoorlie in the eighteenth
times national champion Cora Hannan was the favourite after her 34.43
win in the NSW Championships, but improving local champion Emily
Clifford had a chance of upsetting the titleholder.
Clifford led throughout most of the competition with her 31.87 throw.
In the final round, 1936 Champion Doris Carter, who was competing
after winning the High Jump and running second in the hurdles settled
to hurl the platter 32.58 and steal the gold medal.
Doris Carter had smashed Cora Hannan's national record by five and a
half metres with a 38.67 throw late in 1939 but was considered more as
a high-jumper and hurdler. This performance was not bettered by
another Australian woman until 1956.
Charlotte McGibbon had arrived on the athletics scene in Victoria in
1936. Only twelve years old, she threw the javelin 28.44 to rank in
the Australian top ten that year.
A year later and only just thirteen, McGibbon headed the national
javelin rankings with a 33.69 throw just prior to the National titles
and Empire Games selection meet. Despite this she was not selected in
the Victorian team and so missed selection for the Empire Games.
Since this time McGibbon's performances had improved and she set her
first national record in the event late in 1939; still only fifteen.
She would hold the national record for the next seventeen years.
In this competition McGibbon threw 36.80m (120’ 8 7/8") on her
first throw and was never headed. Vera Askew placed second - her best
throw of 34.32 also on her first attempt. Askew (as Mrs Pepper) would
be runner-up to McGibbon in two more national championships in 1950
and 1952. She had to wait until McGibbon had retired to claim her
first and only national title in 1954.
NSW and Victoria (left to right) in the 1940 relay championship
local West Australian team led for most of the first 300yards, but
Valda Jones and Decima Norman of NSW had a wonderful final exchange
which left WA anchor Joan Woodland with too much to do.
The local teenager seemed to make some ground up on the Empire Games
champ, but NSW ran out the winners by 1 ½ yards in an Australian
record of 49.6 which was believed to be a world best.
Last, and two yards behind the WA team, was the Victorian team, who
had replaced Irene Talbot with high-jumper Doris Carter, after Talbot
had broken down in the 220y final.
Her gold medal here made Decima Norman the most successful athlete of
the championships with three victories. Doris Carter also did well
with two gold, one silver and one bronze medal.