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Mary Rand

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Title: Mary Rand  
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Subject: Great Britain at the 1964 Summer Olympics, Kelly Holmes, Bradley Wiggins, Athletics at the 1964 Summer Olympics – Women's long jump, Athletics at the 1964 Summer Olympics – Women's pentathlon
Collection: 1940 Births, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1960 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1964 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Bbc Sports Personality of the Year Winners, British Female Athletes, British Hurdlers, British Long Jumpers, British Pentathletes, British Triple Jumpers, Commonwealth Games Competitors for England, Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists for England, Commonwealth Games Medallists in Athletics, Commonwealth Games Silver Medallists for England, English Athletes, English Hurdlers, English Long Jumpers, English Olympic Medallists, English Sportswomen, English Triple Jumpers, European Athletics Championships Medalists, Female Long Jumpers, Female Triple Jumpers, Former World Record Holders in Athletics (Track and Field), Living People, Members of the Order of the British Empire, Olympic Athletes of Great Britain, Olympic Gold Medallists for Great Britain, Olympic Medalists in Athletics (Track and Field), People Educated at Millfield, People from Wells, Somerset
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Mary Rand

Mary Rand
Mary Rand in 1966
Personal information
Born (1940-02-10) 10 February 1940
Wells, UK
Height 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight 61 kg (134 lb)
Sport Sprint
Club London Olympiades

Mary Denise Rand, MBE, (née Bignal on 10 February 1940) is a former English track and field athlete. She won the long jump at the 1964 Summer Olympics by breaking the world record, the first British female to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field. She remains the only Great Britain female athlete to win three medals in a single Games.


  • Early life 1
  • Athletics career 2
  • Personal life 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Mary Rand is the daughter of Eric and Hilda Bignal. She was born and grew up in Wells, Somerset, England. At 16, Millfield School offered her an athletics scholarship. She excelled in all sports and won All-England Schools' titles. She was outstanding at high jump, long jump and hurdles. In 1956, she was a guest of the Olympic squad at a training camp in Brighton, where she beat Britain's best high jumpers.

Athletics career

At 17, Rand set a British record of 4046 points in the pentathlon.[1] She won a silver medal in the 1958 Commonwealth Games long jump and came fifth in the high jump. One month later she came seventh in the European pentathlon championship.

In the 1960 Olympics in Rome, she set a British record of 6.33m in the qualifying round of the long jump, which if repeated, would have won a silver in the final. In the final she fouled two of the three jumps and finished ninth. She also finished fourth in the 80m hurdles. She won a bronze medal in the European championship long jump in 1962.[2]

At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Rand set an Olympic record in the long jump in the qualifying rounds, jumping 6.52m. In the final she beat the favourite, world record holder Tatyana Schelkanova of the USSR and Poland's Irena Kirszenstein. Her first jump of 6.59m was a British record. However in the fifth round, on a wet runway with a headwind of 1.6 metres a second, she broke the world record, leaping 6.76m to take gold. Her record lasted four years until it was broken at altitude by Viorica Viscopoleanu in the subsequent Olympics.

Rand won silver medal in the pentathlon, her 5035 points putting her second in the all-time rankings. She was beaten to the gold by Irina Press, whose biological sex has been the subject of speculation. She also won a bronze as a member of the Great Britain team that finished third in the 4×100 metres relay.[3]

Six days after Rand won the gold medal, her room-mate Ann Packer won the 800 metres. Packer said: "Mary was the most gifted athlete I ever saw. She was as good as athletes get, there has never been anything like her since. And I don't believe there ever will."

Rand was made an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in the 1965 New Year's Honours List and voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year for 1964.

After Tokyo, her training was less intensive, but she won a gold the long jump at the 1966 Commonwealth Games. Due to injury, she failed to make the 1968 British Olympic team and retired in September that year.

Rand also held the world record in the triple jump from 1959 to 1981; it was unofficial as a world record in the women's triple jump was not recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federations until 1990.[4]

There is a plaque commemorating the world record long jump (6.76 metres) by Rand at the 1964 Olympic Games in the Market Place in Wells. She was succeeded as Golden Girl of British athletics by her friend and London Olympiades club-mate, Lillian Board.

In 2009, Rand was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.

On 26 January 2012 Wells awarded her the Freedom of the City, following a campaign started by Wells resident Tony Williams.[5]

Personal life

Bignal with Eef Kamerbeek in 1960

Around 1960 Bignal dated Dutch decathlete Eef Kamerbeek. In 1961 she met rower Sid Rand. Three days after meeting she agreed to marry him and they married five weeks later.[6] They had a daughter, Alison. The marriage lasted five years. In December 1969, she married her second husband, American Bill Toomey, the 1968 Olympics' decathlon champion. This marriage lasted 22 years and they had two daughters, Samantha and Sarah. She later married John Reese and lives with him in Atascadero in the United States.[7] She holds dual UK/US citizenship.[8]


  1. ^ Her name was Mary at the Wayback Machine (archived May 18, 2006).
  2. ^ Mary Bignal-Rand.
  3. ^ Sporting Heroes biography. Retrieved on 6 December 2013.
  4. ^ Huw Silk; graphic by Caroline Dewar (13 July 2012). "Hard to beat: longest held athletic records – interactive". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "Olympic star Mary Rand given freedom of the city of Wells". BBC. 27 January 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Mary Rand at the Wayback Machine (archived October 17, 2007). Retrieved on 6 December 2013.
  7. ^ Martin, David RAND WAS BORN TO WIN at the Wayback Machine (archived February 12, 2002). Sporting Life
  8. ^ Where are they now? Mary Rand (athletics) at the Wayback Machine (archived February 27, 2008). The Olympian. Winter 2004. p. 7

External links

  • British Pathe film: Mary Bignal Rand 1961
  • British Pathe film: Home Town Cheers Mary Rand 1964
  • Grainy video of her receiving BBC Sportsview Personality of the Year Award 1964
Preceded by
Tatyana Shchelkanova
Women's Long Jump World Record Holder
1964-10-14 – 1968-10-14
Succeeded by
Viorica Viscopoleanu
Preceded by
Rie Yamaguchi
Women's Triple Jump World Record Holder
Not officially ratified by the IAAF

1959-06-18 – 1981-05-09
Succeeded by
Terri Turner
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