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Edinburgh 1970 – Athletics team runs away with meet

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When an athletics team features names like Pam Kilborn, Mexico Olympic champions Maureen Caird and Ralph Doubell, world record holders Ron Clarke and Kerry O’Brien, and Mexico silver medallists Raelene Boyle and Peter Norman, you know as a fan of the green and gold you can hope for some success at a meet.

But the star-studded athletics team exceeded expectations at the Edinburgh 1970 British Commonwealth Games finishing the meet by winning 10 gold medals, nine silvers, and three bronze.

Raelene Boyle finished the Games with three gold medals, winning the 100m final, with teammate Marion Hoffman (right) winning bronze. (Getty Images)

 

One of the stars of the Edinburgh 1970 Commonwealth Games, was a 19-year-old sprinter from Coburg, Victoria, called Raelene Boyle.⁣

Before going on to become the most successful track and field athlete in Australian Commonwealth Games history, Boyle made her international debut for the green and gold at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.⁣

Specialising in sprint distances, the then 17-year-old Boyle capture a silver medal in the 200m, finishing behind Polish superstar Irena Szewińska who set a world record of 22.58 seconds in the final. Boyle’s time of 22.74, ahead of teammate Jenny Lamy who claimed the bronze medal, would be her personal best time to date.⁣

Getting stronger and faster, Boyle continued to dominate the Australian championships in the lead-up to the Edinburgh Games and was the hot favourite for not only the 200m title in Scotland, but also the 100m event.⁣

Winning the two distances would see Boyle join Decima Norman (1938), Marjorie Jackson-Nelson (1950 & 1954), Marlene Mathews-Willard (1958) and Dianne Burge (1966) as the Australian women to claim the sprint double.⁣

On the second day of competition at Edinburgh, Boyle claimed her first international gold medal by claiming the 100m title, with a dashing 11.2 second run to defeat Alice Anum of Ghana, and teammate Marion Hoffman.⁣

The 1970 Games proved to be a transitional time in Australian athletics seeing the culmination of legendary careers of Ron Clarke and Pam Kilborn, saw the continued success of stars like high jumper Lawrie Peckham winning his second straight gold medal.

 

Pam Kilborn won the Women’s 100m hurdles for the third consecutive games. (CGA Archive)

 

But the Games also bore witness to emerging and surprising performances such as then 17-year-old javelin thrower Petra Rivers winning gold, and the unheralded Tony Manning winning the 3,000m Steeplechase in an upset against teammate O’Brien and the Olympic gold and silver medal winning Kenyans.

Petra Rivers won gold in the Women’s Javelin throw. (Getty Images)

 

Australian decathlete Geoff Smith won gold at the Edinburgh Games, winning the 400m race and the 110m hurdles disciplines during the ten track and field events.⁣⁣
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Smith battled against English pair Peter Gabbett and Barry King for the top spot over the two days of competition, but strong results down the stretch including second places in the pole vault, the javelin throw, and the 1500m was enough to secure the gold medal for the Aussie.

Geoff Smith won gold in the Men’s Decathlon event. (Getty Images)
Phil May won gold in the Men’s Triple Jump and silver in the Long Jump, pictured here. (Getty Images)

 

Kilborn created history in Edinburgh, winning her third hurdles title from three Games, and reversing the result from the Mexico City 1968 Olympics.

In doing so, Pam Kilborn became the first female in any sport to win three consecutive gold medals in the same event at the Commonwealth Games.

Kilborn would later add a second gold medal running in 4x100m relay team with Raelene BoyleJenny Lamy and Marion Hoffman, but when asked about her main event, Kilborn seemed to downplay her tremendous achievement.

“It was another hurdles final. I won and the other two came second and fourth,” Kilborn said.

“The Commonwealth Games wasn’t that much of a competition in hurdles and to be truthful I didn’t worry too much about getting a medal.”

But despite her humility, Pam Kilborn was one of the stars of the 1970 Games.

Pam Kilborn finished the Edinburgh Games with two gold medals. (Getty Images)

 

The Edinburgh Games also saw the final international race of Australian icon Peter Norman, who ran in the 200m and for the 4x100m relay team, before he was wrongly barred from competing for Australia in subsequent events.

It was one of our greatest ever athletics team at the Commonwealth Games.

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