The “Lithgow Flash” is one of the most significant figures in Commonwealth Games Australia history, with a lifetime of service as an athlete and as a team official.
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson was the supreme female sprinter of the 1950s.
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.
However, it was at the Auckland 1950 British Empire Games where Marjorie announced herself to the sprinting world in the first-time she represented Australia.
A month before the Games in New Zealand, Marjorie set the first of her 10 world records, becoming the first Australian female athlete to achieve the feat, and priming herself for a breakthrough performance.
At the Auckland Games, Marjorie won four gold medals, individual golds in the women’s 100-yards, 220-yards and powering Australia’s 440-yards and 660-yards relay teams to victories.
The four gold medals made Marjorie the most successful competitor at the Games.
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Two years later at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games, she won gold in the women’s 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.
Heading into the Vancouver 1954 Empire and Commonwealth Games, the 22-year-old was still at the peak of her powers, and duly defended her crowns in the women’s 100-yard and 220-yard events and help Australia claim gold in the women’s 4×110-yard relay, her seventh Commonwealth Games gold medal.
After achieving everything on the track, now Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, after marrying fellow Helsinki Olympian, cyclist Peter Nelson in 1953, decided to retire from competition as a seven-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and two-time Olympic champion and a legend of Australian athletics.
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, and 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.
Marjorie Jackson-Nelson and the rest of the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games fundraising committee being presented a cheque to support the Australian Team efforts. (CGA Archive)
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.
In 2021, Marjorie Jackson-Nelson was enshrined as a Life Member of Commonwealth Games Australia, a token of her achievements on the track and as an administrator and for contributions to the Commonwealth Sport Movement in the nation.
MARJORIE JACKSON-NELSON HEADLINES THREE NEW CGA LIFE MEMBERS
Three new Life Members were conferred at the Commonwealth Games Australia Annual General Meeting today, becoming the 23rd, 24th and 25th members of the prestigious club.READ MORE
After an incredible sporting career that pushed the social boundaries making the world witnessed the power of females in sport, the legend of the “Lithgow Flash” continues to encourage the quest for excellence of young women who seek the same path in sport.