Thirty-five years ago, today, Queensland’s Glynis Nunn, won gold in the women’s heptathlon at the Brisbane 1982 Commonwealth Games.
She is still deeply involved in the Games as a Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018) organising committee board member and recently reflected on her enormous achievement.
By David Tarbotton
As a teenager at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, Nunn was unfortunately injured and didn’t finish her competition, but four years later when the Games came to her hometown, she was primed for success.
“I actually didn’t feel any more pressure because it was in Brisbane,” she recalled recently.
“It actually made me feel better because I was able to have family and friends around me. I also had Chris (Nunn her then husband) in the team and that was a real calming influence. I loved it and really had everything to prove as my last Commonwealth Games finished dismally because of a stress fracture.
“I was only 17, so I had so much to prove.”
Nunn relocated in the lead-up to the Games.
“I was actually living in Adelaide, moving there at the beginning of 1982. But that was for a reason. I went there to prepare for the Games, to build a team of coaches around me to try to improve.“ But she could still feel the hype of the Commonwealth Games.
“Really any Games in Australia is the country’s Games and the excitement was building no matter where you lived.
“We had also had the selection trials at the track a short time before and that was just really heralding to everyone, that the Games were just around the corner.”
Nunn was not the favourite going into the Games. In the leadup she had broken the national record at the trials in September with a score of 6102, but five days later at the European Championships in Athens, English athlete Judy Simpson scored 6259 points.
“Going into the event I really thought that I had a good chance of getting a medal. Judy Simpson had just competed overseas and broken the Commonwealth record and there were a couple of other Canadians who were also going to be strong but I knew that I had prepared pretty well so had just as much chance at performing well.”
At the end of day one of competition just a few points separated Nunn and Simpson. Nunn had run 13.33 in the 100m hurdles, putt 13.32m in the shot and cleared 1.77m in the high jump, while Simpson’s marks were 13.22, 13.32m and 1.80m. But Nunn got a break on Livermore with a tremendous run in the day’s final event the 200m, clcoking of 24.12, well ahead of Simpson’s 25.01.
“Judy and I were never really good friends, and this competitive relationship went on for years,” she recalls.
“She was really ‘dirty’ that I got an inside lane in the 200m as she said it was because I was Australian and they were favouring me. But the 200 is 200 in any lane and in the Heptathlon you just run as hard as you can because you are after a time, not the place.”
The performance helped Nunn to lead overnight. She opened day two competition with a decisive performance in the long jump, hitting a wind assisted distance of 6.51m, while Simpson managed just 6.10m. However Simpson clawed back points in the javelin throwing 38.76m, three metres ahead of Nunn.
Going into the final event, Nunn lead by over 80 points.
“It really came down to the 800m and I felt that I had a good chance because I knew that there was no one that could run an outstanding 800m. The final order didn’t change because of the results in the last event as the three medallists finished less than a second apart.
Nunn claimed the gold medal with a score of 6254, just five points short of the Commonwealth Record. Simpson won silver with 6162 points and Canadian Jill Ross the bronze with a tally of 5895 points.
Four years later in Edinburgh, while Nunn was concentrating just on the 100m hurdles (winning bronze), Simpson took the heptathlon gold equalling Nunn’s Games record.
Nunn also recalled being one of the first to know a well-guarded secret.
“I didn’t go in the opening ceremony as I had hurt my ankle the day before at the training track so I was back in the village icing my ankle when Raelene Boyle came in just before she was to run in with the Queen’s message. I was the first one that knew who was carrying the message.”
Five days after Nunn collected her gold medal, the curtail closed on a magnificent Games.
“Brisbane did us proud,” Nunn proudly recalled.