Raelene Boyle – the most successful track and field athlete in Commonwealth Games history
#BornOnThisDay 24 June 1951 was Raelene Boyle, a four-time Commonwealth Games representative – with seven gold and two silver medals from her four campaigns, she is the most successful track and field athlete from all countries in Commonwealth Games history.
Still a teenager Boyle launched her Commonwealth Games career in impeccable style in Edinburgh in 1970, claiming three gold medals from her three events – 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
At her second Games in Christchurch, Boyle came under prepared suffering an achilles tendon injury in the lead up. In the 100m heats, United Kingdom’s Andrea Lynch set a Games record.
The final was close with both Lynch and Boyle given the same time – 11.31, but Boyle was awarded the race and had defended her title. Her form was terrific in the 200m, breaking the Games record in the heat and final, winning in a brilliant 22.50.
Australia were untouchable in the 4x100m relay, the powerful team of Denise Boyd, Robyn Boak, Jenny Lamy and Boyle won by 0.79 seconds in a Games record time of 43.51 – missing the Australian record by 0.01 seconds. Boyle had won a second Games treble.
In 1978 her ongoing achilles problems played havoc, while training in Perth ahead of the Games she torn her right achilles tendon. However, she still managed to get to the start line, winning silver in the 100m, beaten by just 0.08 seconds by Great Britain’s Sonia Lannaman. But the 200m would be a bridge too far for Boyle, as she wrote in her autobiography.
“My Achillies tendons finally surrendered to the inevitable. Like rubber bands stretched to breaking point, they snapped. The Games were over for me. I wondered just how much longer I could continue.”
Over the next couple of years there were a number of stop/starts in her athletics career, including the controversial 1980 Moscow Olympic Games where she joined the boycott of the Games.
A few months after the Moscow Games, Boyle and her coach Ron Dewhurst decided to move up to the 400m for the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games. After two operations and a break from training her Achillies problems had improved.
At the Games, she started well. Won her heat in 52.71 and was comfortable in her second place in the semi-final in 52.64.
“I felt confident, perhaps more than at any other time in my career,” she wrote in her autobiography. “I knew this was the last throw of the dice when it came to my running, I would never again have an opportunity like this.”
In the 400m final, Boyle looked strong at 200m and by 150m she sensed she would win. She did in a time of 51.26, 0.71 seconds ahead of silver medallist Michelle Scutt, of Wales.
Just like Betty Cuthbert achieved at the 1964 Olympics, she had changed events and achieved gold in her swansong.
It was her seventh gold medal and eighth medal at the Commonwealth Games. She would add another silver in the 4x400m relay, bringing her total to nine and remain the most successful track and field athlete, amongst all countries at the Commonwealth Games.
MOST MEDALS COMMONWEALTH GAMES – ATHLETICS
Raelene Boyle (AUS) 7 gold, 2 silver – total 9 medals
Marjorie Jackson (AUS) 7 gold – total 7 medals
Don Quarrie (JAM) 6 gold – total 6 medals
Pam Ryan-Kilborn (AUS) 6 gold – total 6 medals