Awarded Life Membership 21 May 2021
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson is one of the most significant figures in Commonwealth Games Australia history, with a lifetime of service as an athlete and team official.
As a 17-year-old, Marjorie Jackson, from Lithgow, burst on to the world athletics scene by defeating the queen of the 1948 London Olympic Games, Fanny Blankers-Koen, over 100 metres at the Sydney Sports Ground in February 1949. In London, Blankers-Koen had won the 100 and 200 metres, the 80 metres hurdles and anchored the Dutch women’s relay team to the gold medal.
Marjorie’s career blossomed becoming known as ‘The Lithgow Flash’ after the country town in New South Wales where she lived.
In January of 1950 Marjorie set the first of her 10 world records, becoming the first Australian female athlete to do so and a month later won four gold medals (100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards and 660 yards medley relays) at the Auckland 1950 Empire Game. Those four gold medals made Marjorie the most successful competitor at the Games.
Two years later at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, she won the 100 and 200 metres. As a result, she was awarded the prestigious Helms Foundation’s 1952 World Trophy for the best amateur athlete in Australasia. The 1953 Coronation Honours saw Marjorie appointed Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) ‘For Women’s athletics’, thus becoming the first Australian woman to receive such an honour for sporting achievement.
The Vancouver 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games were Marjorie’s last international event before retiring from the track. Marjorie Nelson (she married fellow Helsinki Olympian, cyclist Peter Nelson in 1953) duly won the 100 yards, 220 yards and was part of the winning 4 x 110 yards relay to take her Empire and Commonwealth Games medal haul to seven gold.
The 1980s saw Marjorie return to athletics in administrative roles. For the Commonwealth Games she was a Team Manageress in Brisbane 1982 and Edinburgh 1986, an Assistant Team Manager in Auckland 1990, sand the first female Team General Team in Victoria 1994. Marjorie concluded her team roles as a popular Athlete Liaison Manager in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
In 1985, Marjorie was one of the original inductees into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and ten years later, she was elevated to Legend status. She was the deputy chair of Adelaide’s bid for the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
In 1990, ‘For service to community health and to sport’ she was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) and in 2001, prior to her becoming the Governor of South Australia (2001–2007), she was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). Whilst Governor, Marjorie was created Commander Victorian Order (CVO) by Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1998, Marjorie was one of the six ‘Australian Olympic Legends’ on an Australia Post series of stamps. Seven years later, her running spikes featured on another series of stamps, ‘Sports Treasures’.
At the Opening Ceremony for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Marjorie was one of the four final bearers in the Queen’s Baton Relay. It was a role for which she was well practised, having been one of the eight final ‘all-female’ torch bearers at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Marjorie’s contributions to the Olympic Movement and World Athletics are just as numerous as hers are to the Commonwealth Sport Movement.