Monday, September 30, 2013

Lady Heath and the Olympic Games of 1928

Lady Heath fought long and hard for women's rights in a number of spheres - most specifically, in athletics and aviation. When women's athletics was grudgingly admitted to the Olympics of 1928 in Amsterdam,  only a limited programme was allowed - the 100m, 800m, high jump, discus and 4x100m relay. Britain decided to boycott the Games and so when Lady Heath arrived at the stadium,  expecting to officiate, she was told she couldn't enter.  She hurried off to the aerodrome where she had left her DH Moth and, a while later, was seen flying over the arena. The story then goes that she dropped a note threatening to land her plane  in the middle of the stadium if she wasn't admitted by more conventional means. She got her pass. 
* These images come from and will probably disappear in a day or two.  It's clear from the picture of the female javelin thrower that the one-handed technique had replaced the two-handed style at which the young Sophie Eliott-Lynn was so proficient.
Women's javelin, along with the 100m hurdles, was admitted to the 1932 Games in Los Angeles when, for the first time, British female athletes competed at an Olympic Games. In 1948, the 200m, long jump and shot were added to the programme and then nothing changed until 1964, when the 400m and pentathlon arrived.
Only  in 1972 was the 1500m first raced, followed by the 3000m (later  5000m), marathon and 400m hurdles in 1984. Since last year in London, when steeplechase was added, the men and women's Olympic athletics programmes are virtually identical, with 20 individual events and two relays.
* Lady Heath never competed at an Olympics. As Sophie Eliott-Lynn, she did compete at the Women's World Olympic Games organised by the French woman Alice Milliatt precisely because women's athletics was not part of the Olympics. Lady H was ahead of her time (story of her life)!

No comments: