Here is my list of books penned by Olympians from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, continued from Part 1 here.

Inside Five Ring Circus Cover

Inside the Five Ring Circus: Changing Global Sports and the Modern Olympics, is written by Ollan Cassell, a gold medal member of the 4×400 US men’s track team in Tokyo, and long-time executive within the AAU, the powerful governing body of amateur sports through much of the 20th century. Cassel’s book is less about his track career and more about the fascinating history of amateur athletics in the United States. He was front and center in the debate and transition of the professionalization of sports in America.

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In The Long Run – US 5000-Meter Olympic Gold Medalist Tokyo 1964 is an autobiography by the first and only American to win the 5,000 meter finals in an Olympics, Bob Schul. Co-written by Laura Rentz Krause, In the Long Run tells the story from his childhood growing up in West Milton, Ohio, to his torturous training sessions under legendary coach Mihaly Igloi in California, to meeting high expectations of victory in Tokyo.

Mary Mary cover

Mary Mary – An Autobiography of an Olympic Champion is by British long jump champion, Mary Rand. She was definitely one of the brightest stars at the 1964 Olympics. While expected to win gold in Rome, but didn’t, Rand redeemed herself in Tokyo, not only breaking the world record and winning gold in the long jump, but also taking silver in the pentathlon and bronze in the 4×100-meter women’s relay. An electrifying presence in person, Rand’s charm oozes through the pages as well.

No Bugles No Drums

No Bugles No Drums is an eloquent look of double middle-distance gold medalist, Peter Snell, the incredible double champion of the men’s 800 and 1500-meter middle-distance races at the ’64 Games. Written with Garth Gilmour, No Bugles No Drums is the appropriate title for a smart but understated athlete, who writes with wit and understated insight.

Brightwell Golden Girl vocer

Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl is by Robbie Brightwell, the captain of the Great Britain’s track team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It is the story not only of his journey to a fantastic silver medal anchoring the 4×400 relay team, but also of the journey of his wife, Ann Packer, who won gold in the 1500 and silver in the 400 meters (losing only to Betty Cuthbert). This is a story of self-discovery and leadership told with intelligence and charm.

Run Bullet Run cover

Run, Bullet, Run: The Rise, Fall, and Recovery of Bob Hayes is the incredible story of the career of Bob Hayes, one of only two people to win both a gold medal and a Super Bowl championship. Co-written with Robert Pack, Run, Bullet, Run is the story of a young black American whose rise to Olympic gold and stardom as a Dallas Cowboys wide receiver was as stunning as his fall due to drugs and alcohol.

wokini

Wokini: A Lakota Journey to Happiness and Self-Understanding is by Billy Mills and co-written by novelist, Nicholas Sparks. Mills was one of the biggest stories of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Unlike Schul, who was pre-determined by the press to win the 5,000 meters, Mills was practically unapproached by the press, who hardly knew him. Mills went on to win the 10,000 meter finals in Tokyo in an incredible come-from-behind victory, inspiring Team America and millions around the world. Mills has gone on to great works in helping young Native American Indians in the United States, and wrote this inspirational parable of self discovery, Wokini.

See the other recommended books in Part 1.

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Cotswold Games

Robbie Brightwell was a 16-year old student in Shropshire, England, and was straining to keep his eyes open while doing research in his local library when he came upon an old magazine and was struck by a picture of runners in a competition sometime in the late 19th century. As he related in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl, he was surprised to see that in an area called Much Wenlock, not far from his own, there was a sporting event called “The Olympics”.

Intrigued, Brightwell, who went on to captain Britain’s track and field team at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, began impromptu research into the Much Wenlock Games, and learned that Baron de Coubertin, at the age of 27, came to Much Wenlock and met an 81-year-old English physician, who planted the idea for what we now recognize as the Modern Olympics.

But as is true with any great endeavor, new ideas and initiatives are often built on earlier iterations. According to The Games: A Global History of the  Olympics by David Goldblatt, events held in both England and France could be considered precursors to Coubertin’s Olympics.

The Cotswold Games: In the early part of the 17th century, fairs and festivals were a common part of the English country lifestyle. One of the biggest in England was the Cotswold Games in Chipping Camden, a mixture of fun and sports, contests and gambling. As can be seen in the poster for the Cotswold Games, also known as the “Cotswold Olimpicks”, there was a mock castle created on a hill, in front of which was the main theater for the events. Developed by Robert Dover, a “charismatic and charming man”, the Cotswold Games featured “hare coursing and horse racing, wrestling and shin kicking, stick fighting and hammer throwing.” Dover established this country fair in 1612 and was able to organize the Cotswold Games for about 30 years. Unfortunately for Dover, and perhaps the community of Chipping Camden, the 1630s saw a shift from the hedonistic reign of King James I to a more conservative, puritanical approach of Oliver Cromwell, who overthrew the King in 1645. That put an end to the Cotswold Games.

The Republican Olympiad: When the French monarchy was overthrown in the French Revolution of 1789, leaders of the new republic were excited about change to come. One of the leaders of the revolution, Charles Gilbert Romme, devised a way to update the calendar for a new, enlightened France. With five days added to the year, with the inclusion of another day added to a Leap Year, which would take place every four years. According to Goldblatt, “Romme thought that the lead day might be a good occasion for staging public festivities and games: ‘we suggest calling it the French Olympiad and the final year the Olympics Year.” In 1796, the first Republican Olympiad was held in Paris, where hundreds of thousands came out for games, music, dancing, running and wrestling. Winners of competitions won wreaths of laurels, pistols, sabres, vases and watches. The Republican Olympiad continued for two more cycles, but died out before the start of the 19th century.

Benefit of Mr Kite and John Lennon
John Lennon in front of poster that inspired “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”

Pablo Fanque’s Travelling Circus Royal: As Goldblatt noted, the Olympics were often more often associated with circuses in the 18th and 19th centuries in England. One of the most popular traveling circuses was called Pablo Fanque’s travelling Circus Royal, which offered an “unrivalled equestrian troupe” and ” new and novel features in the Olympian Games.” Pablo Fanque was said to be the most popular circus proprietor in a golden age of circuses in Victorian England, and was quite accomplished not only as an equestrian, but also as a master of the corde volante. But as you may be able to tell, Fanque’s association to the Olympics is peripheral at best. His association to The Beatles may be stronger. The album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” featured a song called “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite“, the lyrics of which are primarily lifted from an 1843 poster marketing Fanque’s Circus Royal.

The Much Wenlock Olympian Games: Dr Penny Brookes of Shropshire, England, agreed with the thinking of the time, that it was important to promote “the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town…by the encouragement of outdoor recreations and by the award of prizes annually at public meetings for skill in athletic exercises and industrial attainments.” The first Much Wenlock Olympic Games were held in 1850. While these Olympic Games were a rural fair, they also had a firm sporting focus. In addition to fun events like wheelbarrow and sack races, both amateurs and professionals competed in cricket, football, archery, hurdling, running, shooting, cycling and a pentathlon. Large cash prizes were awarded.

When Baron de Coubertin, was told about the Much Wenlock Olympic Games, he made it a point to visit and meet Dr Brookes, a seminal act in the origin story of the modern Olympic Games.

William Penny Brookes in 1876 Photo WENLOCK OLYMPIAN SOCIETY
William Penny Brookes in 1876 Photo WENLOCK OLYMPIAN SOCIETY

Robbie Brightwell, captain of Team GB’s track and field team, was about to board his flight for Tokyo and the XVIII Olympiad when he got a telegram. It was from his mentor, Harold Fletcher, the headmaster of his school when he was a young teenager, as he explained in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl.

“Best of luck to you & team. Stop. Do your best. Stop. Hold true to T&D. Stop.”

Brightwell, the 400-meter sprinter from Shropshire, was likely pleased to receive such encouragement, but he was puzzled about what he had to hold true to. What did “T&D” mean?

This was the 1960s and long flights had long stopovers – the one Brightwell boarded landed in Tehran, Iran to refuel. The Persian air hung hot and heavy despite the early morning, and the nagging flies made the new environment somewhat unbearable. Brightwell’s teammate and eventual double silver medalist in Tokyo, hurdler John Cooper, remarked, “This place is a bloody disaster.”

And that last word unlocked the puzzle that had been rattling around Brightwell’s brain since he left London. Fletcher was referring to Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem, “If”.

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

Brightwell was a young 21, and was asked to captain a group of talented athletes who were looking to be the most successful athletics team Great Britain had ever sent to an Olympics. But he was feeling the pressure. This was a time when athletes in the US and the UK were bristling at the hierarchal and top-down nature of sports associations – how they selected athletes for meets and competitions, what support they provided, and in general whether they treated them as people or pawns.

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Brightwell had strong views that sports associations and officials needed to be more transparent and give athletes greater voice, but also knew that transparency and voice would not come without a fight. Brightwell clearly was popular among other athletes for his positivity, evenhandedness, and clarity of values. And when the powers that be, notably the British Amateur Athletic Board (BAAB), noticed that the track and field team was enjoying success and had a great esprit de corps, many believed Brightwell was a major influence.

When Jack Crump, the secretary to the BAAB, offered the captaincy to Brightwell, the runner was overjoyed. But perhaps he heard Kipling whisper in his ear to treat “Triumph” as an imposter. Brightwell took a mental step back and asked Crump questions: Would there be any duties? Could the captaincy be rolled over into the following season to ensure consistency? Brightwell was involved in reform activities in athletics – could he still continue with that? In other words, was this just a title, placed on someone who’s most important role was to avoid controversy?

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Brightwell eventually accepted. But he did not stay quiet. The captain asked to be present when the BAAB made its selections for Great Britain’s track and field team, but he was turned down. “Surely I should have sight of the team before it’s splashed over the newspapers? I don’t believe it’s an unreasonable request, if only as a matter of courtesy.”

And yet Brightwell was left in the dark. The reaction to the selection was emotional, according to Brightwell.

A chorus of omitted athletes raised merry hell, providing the press with a wealth of “protest” stories. In my opinion, many had cause for complaint. Athletes who were still injured had been picked, while alternative candidates reaching top form had been ignored. Similarly, world-class athletes recovering from illness (and almost certain to achieve full fitness before Tokyo), were disregarded. Also, complaints abounded that regional bias within the selection panel had influenced decisions.

Brightwell did not believe his captaincy was just in name only. He decided to write an open letter to the press to voice his disappointment in the lack of transparency. Brightwell was

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Robbie Brightwell, from his autobiography

The headline read “Olympic Team Revolts”.

With only two weeks to go before the start of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the London press was saying that the Great Britain Athletics team was insubordinate over television fees, and that their captain, Robbie Brightwell was leading the insurrection.

The BBC was doing a pre-Olympics show with the hopes of interviewing members of Team GB before they took off for Tokyo. Appearing on television or radio often resulted in payments to the athletes. In order to protect their amateur status, very often a third of these fees were, based upon an agreement with the media, would go to the charity of their choosing (after two thirds were deducted for administrative and tax purposes). Those in track and field commonly sent their fees to the International Athletics Club (IAC), who organized training fees and helped absorb parts of their participation fees in meets, for example.

To the surprise of the athletes, they learned that the BBC had made a separate agreement with the British Amateur Athletic Board (BAAB), the sports authority accountable to selecting those to compete in the Olympics, which required the television fees to be sent to the BAAB.

The athletes felt that the BAAB were not responsive to their needs. For example, the athletes requested a pre-Tokyo training camp, but was rejected by the BAAB, which only got involved once the IAC agreed to fund such a training camp. When Brightwell explained the situation to his team, he wrote in his autobiography, that his teammates felt their individual rights were being violated:

“Hold on,” said one, “this isn’t a simple contractual dispute between two parties. It involves personal liberties. Whilst the Board is acting quite properly negotiating fixture contracts, that right doesn’t extend to binding individuals to appear in interviews. That is a personal matter for us to decide.”

“And there’s another important principle at stake,” added another. “Apart from flouting our right to decide whether we wished to appear on television, the Board is also set upon pocketing our appearance money.”

“That’s right,” piped up Ann. “I’ve just begged a ten-shilling parachute from my parents to keep the wolf from the door. If we all direct our fees to the IAC to reduce their running costs, they will be able to give us a rebate on the moneys we’ve paid to be here.”

“Damn right,” interjected Cooper. “Let’s have a vote on the issue.”

In the end, Brightwell explained to the influential secretary of the BAAB, Jack Crump, that his teammates “refused” to participate in the BBC program. But Crump was incensed. “Refused? Refused? I’m not negotiating with a trade union. I’m secretary to the British amateur athletic board, giving instructions to the British Olympic team captain.”

The two parties were at a standstill. There were compromises. The BAAB agreed that athletes had the right to choose whether to participate in the interviews or not. But the BAAB would not budge on where the fees would go. Brightwell was overseeing a split in his own team, as some athletes chose to appear on tv, and others did not. Brightwell, his fiancé Ann Packer and two of his 4×400 teammates, John Cooper and Adrian Metcalfe chose not to.”

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The mantle of leadership weighed heavily on Brightwell. He escaped to a quiet spot with Packer and broke down in tears.

“What in God’s name is happening? We should be focused on the Olympics, not wrangling with a fossilized governing body about the rights and wrongs of appearing on television. Why are we in this situation?”

The next morning, the newspapers were writing of the “revolt”. On top of that, Brightwell was made aware of a move within the BAAB to take away Brightwell’s captaincy. Would his place on the Olympic team follow?

Brightwell, wracked with uncertainty, went to the team and told them that he was willing to step down as captain. Lynn Davies, the eventual gold medal winner of the long jump in Tokyo, knew that if the team put it to a vote, that Brightwell would have to change his mind. Davies proposed they vote, and the vote was unanimous – the team supported Brightwell.

In the end, the team manager, Pat Sage, approached Brightwell and said that this fight had to end. “I don’t intend going to Tokyo with this fracas hanging over me.” Sage said that he would support Brightwell in his captaincy with a desire to forge team unity if Brightwell would support him as team manager. Brightwell remained captain. And the headlines finally changed for the better:

“UK Olympic Team Calls Off Revolt Against Manager”

As the UPI article of September 26, 1964 stated, “We shook hands chatted, and so far as I am concerned the argument between Sage and myself is finished. I take back nothing of my views about the official bumbledom which led to these differences of opinion. But let’s bury the hatchet and look forward to Tokyo.”

 

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A young Ann Packer and Robbie Brightwell
There was a gravitational pull that brought Robbie Brightwell and Ann Packer together. Like two small satellites spinning around a sun called Athletics, they would meet every now and then over a four or five year period, and appear to get closer and closer…until finally, they were together, spinning in their orbit, in synch. 

It was the spring of 1957 and 17-year-old Brightwell was at a six-day athletics training camp in Lilleshall Hall, a national sports center in Shropshire. He saw a girl, “dark haired, curvey and attractive.” As Brightwell wrote in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl, “she stood out a mile.” He made an attempt to talk with her, but he got shooed away by a track judge. And then, he lost her.

In the summer of 1960, Brightwell had become an accomplished sprinter, good enough to make the Olympic Team and represent Great Britain at the Rome Olympics. He was at the English School Championships in Shrewsbury where he was asked to present medals to the 220 yards senior girls’ finalists. And there she was again.

The pretty, dark-haired girl mounting the rostrum for her silver medal had a familiar face. In a few seconds I placed her. She was the girl I’d admired at Southampton three years earlier. Her name was Ann Packer and she hailed from Berkshire.

But again, he was shooed away, this time by the administrator of the athletics course he was attending. Despite attempts to walk her back to her team section, Packer was escorted away as if he were a ne’re do well to be avoided, and not a newly-minted Olympian.

Then, in the Spring the following year, at a training camp at Loughborough Colleges organized by the International Athletics Club, their magnetic forces brought Packer and Brightwell together again.

At the outset, one particular attractive girl caught my eye. Within seconds, I realised it was Ann Packer, whose medals I’d presented at the previous year’s ESAA Championships. Having previously failed to attract her attention I determined to make up for lost time. Waiting until after lunch, I wandered over to her group. Apart from a perfunctory smile, she ignored me.

Packer had many potential suitors and Brightwell’s shyness left him at the outskirts of Packer’s orbit. But as fate would have it, their gravitational pull would send them careening together, coincidentally in the street, on their way to a dance party.

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From Brightwell’s autobiography
She laughed off my apologies, and I escorted her to the dance hall. When we arrived, the evening’s entertainment was in full swing, and anxious to maintain the initiative, I asked for the first dance. Leaving the floor and anxious to keep her to myself, I steered her to join Barry Jackson and his Melton Mowbray girlfriend, Pat Parker. From time to time, our conversation would be interrupted by others whisking her off, but I held a trump card; guaranteeing her return, I kept a firm grip on her handbag. Encouragingly, she stayed by my side. I felt more and more confident in her presence.

And that, as Bogey said at the end of Casablanca, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Fast forward to October 1964. Ann Packer had won a silver in the 400 meters and a gold in the 800 meters. Robbie Brightwell had come from behind to snag silver for his 4×400 relay team. They left Tokyo as heroes of the 1964 Summer Olympics, and were headed home to England where the Olympic heroes would take center stage in one of the biggest weddings of the year.

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John Cooper Robbie Brightwell Adrian Metcalfe Tim Graham, from the book Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl

He could sense the ghosts of Rome with him. Robbie Brightwell, just 17, crashed out of the 400 meters in the semi-finals at the 1960 Summer Olympics. He ran so hard in the first 200 meters that he didn’t have the strength to fight effortlessly through an expected crosswind around the bend.

Brightwell, returning to the 400 meters at the 1964 Tokyo Games as the captain of Great Britain’s athletics squad, was determined to do better. And this time, he made it to the final eight. But the ghosts of Rome stuck to Brightwell like the thick humidity of the Tokyo air. The ghosts whispered doubts into Brightwell’s ears, and the 21-year-old from Shropshire could not help by listen. Here’s how he describes his moment of truth in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl:

Something wasn’t right in my head. The burning flame to win was waning. Instead, a terrible foreboding gripped me, akin to the terror of being buried alive. I was suffering the onset of ‘choking’. It was like acid eating away at my resolve. It’d started during our tunnel walk. One moment I was okay, the next swamped by fear.

Brightwell was actually in third, behind eventual gold medalist Mike Larrabee and silver medalist Wendell Mottley, going into the home stretch. But when he saw Larabee blast into a five-meter lead, something broke within Brightwell. “A wave of hopelessness swept over me. My oxygen and glucose banks were empty, and I was running on despair.”

And despite being in third, he meekly allowed the Polish sprinter, Andrzej Badeński, to pass him for the bronze medal.

I felt disconsolate. What hurt most wasn’t the fact that I’d been beaten, but rather that I’d failed myself. At the critical moment, the demons in my head had taken over. That was an unforgivable sin. I hated myself. After years of training and seismic setbacks, I’d fallen into the fathomless Pit of Doubt. Idiot!

And yet, it is not how we lose or fail, it is how we react to loss or failure that shows what we are truly made of. Redemption, in the 4×400 meter relay, was only two days away for Brightwell.

While the Americans were favored to win this competition, as they featured the 400-meter gold medalist Mike Larrabee and the 200-meter gold medalist Henry Carr, Team GB was a strong medal candidate. Tim Graham, Adrian Metcalfe, 400-meter hurdler silver medalist John Cooper and Brightwell as the anchor had already run the fastest team time in the heats.

But the finals brought the best in the world together for winner take all.

Great Britain was in the outside lane, which meant that in this staggered start, leadoff runner, Graham, could not see anyone in front of him. And yet he ran well and passed the baton to Metcalfe, who was going so fast in the first 100 meters that Brightwell worried if he could last. In fact, Metcalfe drew first blood, grabbing the inside lane and the lead.

Metcalfe was up against the 400-meter champion Larabee, who powered ahead, as did Kent Barnard of Trinidad and Tobago. Metcalfe handed the baton to Cooper, who strained to keep up with American Ulis Williams and Trinidadian Edwin Roberts. Cooper’s head wagged as he dashed towards Brightwell, but was passed by the Jamaican Mal Spence.

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From the book Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl

Just when Cooper was about to hand the baton to Brightwell, Williams of the USA slapped the baton into Carr’s hand, and then went sprawling to the cinder track. Brightwell grabbed the baton and found himself in fourth with 400 meters to go.

As he writes in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl, this time, he did not allow the moment to swallow him.

Carr, Mottley, and (George) Kerr were travelling at vertiginous speed, and I was falling further behind. I knew they were engaged in a headlong fight to reach the last turn first. That way they could dominate the inside lane, and avoid running extra distance around the turn. Fixing Kerr’s bobbing head in front, I eased fractionally. I mustn’t repeat my Perth mistake. Let him duel with Mottley.

As we scorched the final turn, Carr put in a ferocious kick, pulling away from Mottley who, in responding to his burst of speed, opened a gap between himself and Kerr. Still fourth, I kept close behind the Jamaican, awaiting any sign of weakness. Suddenly, his head began to waggle. The punishing pace was taking its toll. Determination took hold. I attacked, inching alongside him. We were so close our elbows clashed. He drifted behind.

The last 60 meters loomed. Two runners remained in front: Mottley and Carr. Instinctively, I relaxed and fixed the Trinidadian in my sights. My legs, although heavy, continued driving. Then, almost as though watching a slow motion film, Wendell wavered, chopping his stride, and tensing his neck. That was enough to give me encouragement. I slowly inched up to his shoulder. Holding me steadfast was the thought that this would be the last time I’d compete. In the last few meters, I flung myself at the finishing line.

Brightwell did it. He came from way behind to not only secure a medal, but a silver medal. Brightwell had brought his team back from the dead, exorcising ghosts of his own on the way.

Watch the video below from the 1 minute, 30-second mark to see part of this race.

You can’t even see her – Kon Ichikawa‘s camera is tightly focused on the two lead runners of the women’s 800 meter race,Maryvonne Dupurer of France and Zsuzsa Szabo of Hungary. Occasionally, the angle lengthens and you can see the rest of the pack bleed into the frame. Towards the end of the race Dupurer is safely in the lead, with about 6 others in a pack a few yards behind. Until, Billy Mills-like, #55 of Great Britain splits wide and sprints past the pack, blasts pasts Duprerer and wins the 800-meters with, apparently, ease.

#55 was Ann Packer. At that time, she wasn’t experienced at the 800 – her specialty was the 400 meters. And while her hopes for gold in the 400 meters were very high, she had to settle for silver, losing to a powerful Betty Cuthbert of Australia. At that stage, with her best event done, she wasn’t motivated to do worse in a 800-meter field packed with superstars. After all, her 800-meter career was really only a few months old.

 

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Ann Packer wins the 800 meter race in Tokyo unexpectedly.

 

Just prior to the Tokyo Olympiad, members of the Great Britain track and field team were in France for a meet. Packer’s hamstring was barking somewhat so she was reluctant to run in events unnecessarily. However, there were open slots for the 800-meter competition, and as her then fiancé and fellow 400-meter specialist, Robbie Brightwell, explained to her, the 800 would be less punishing on her hamstring than the 400 and it would also still be a good tune up. Additionally, Brightwell reasoned, there would be no pressure as everyone recognized Packer as a 400-meter runner.

And as all great sports stories play out, she ran and she nearly won in an event she rarely gave a second thought to. The Olympic authorities for GB agreed that Packer should get one of the open 800 meter slots. Packer protested, saying that she would be taking another worthy runner’s spot to Tokyo, but the fact of the matter is that Packer had smashed the qualifying time required.

But when she got to Tokyo, after taking second in the 400 meters, Packer no longer had visions of glory. She could already see herself back home in England. In fact, her plan was to forgo a potentially disastrous 800 and catch up on her shopping in downtown Tokyo. As far as she was concerned, her Olympiad was over. Here’s how Brightwell described her state of mind, in his autobiography, Robbie Brightwell and His Golden Girl:

“Do you think I should run in the 800 meter heats tomorrow?” she asked. “Maybe I should call it a day and go shopping.” I gaped in astonishment. “Shopping? You must be mad! Shopping? This is the Olympic games, not the Moulsford Village sports!”

“I know, but I’m hardly likely to bed or a silver medal, am I? And I need to buy some presents for the folks back home.”

“Come off it!” I exploded. “Think about the British girls back home who would have given their eyeteeth to be here in your place!”

She smiled sheepishly. “OK I’ll run. Not that it’ll make much difference. I’m bound to get eliminated in the heats, and then I can go shopping.”

As it turns out, Packer and perhaps even her fiancé Brightwell were missing the telltale signs of potential success. While Packer hoped just to remain respectable, others saw a form and ease that would translate easily to victory. As Packer prepared for the finals, after essentially just making the cuts in the heats, two people of considerable experience and respect came up to Packer with powerfully motivating words. Again, here is how Brightwell explains it in his autobiography:

Milkha Singh jogged past with his 1600 meters relay squad. Espying her, he dashed over, taking both hands and staring stern-faced into her eyes. “Ann Packer, listen to me. You will win!” She giggled self conscientiously, flashing me an amused smile. Shaking her hands emphatically, he repeated his message.

“You’re not listening, Ann Packer! Yesterday, I watched your semi-final. You were coasting! After the race, you come and show me your gold medal.”

She nodded respectfully. No sooner he departed than Percy Cerutty, Betty Cuthbert’s coach, rushed up. Even though they had never been introduced, Percy wasn’t a man for social ceremonies. “This,” he said, wagging a finger in front of her face, “is the finger of experience. And it’s standing to attention. Listen! Better and I’ve been talking. Stay with them until the end, and you will hammer them. Understand?”

Astonished, Ann nodded dumbly. Mission completed, Percy disappeared as quickly as he’d appeared.

When Packer won her race, right away she steered to the stands and into the arms of Brightwell. Milkha Singh was there as well, smiling with the satisfaction of clairvoyance proved correct. “Did I not say your woman would win? You didn’t believe me! I was right! Hee, hee, hee! Brightwell, you never listen to me!”

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Ann Packer wins 800 meters.
Ann Packer wins 800 meters.

She wanted to go shopping.

Ann Packer had won the silver medal in the women’s 400 meters, finishing second to Australian, Betty Cuthbert. So instead of bothering with the 800-meter race, it was time to ease the disappointment with a trip into town. Her fiance, and captain of Team GB at the 1964 Tokyo Games, Robbie Brightwell, convinced Packer that she was here to compete, and that she should. So she did.

Packer had little experience in the 800 meters. And as you can see in this film clip, Packer was at the back of the pack for most of the race. But in the final two hundred meters, she climbed to third, and in a burst sprinted out a dominating finish. A world record finish, in fact.

Packer explained subsequently that the 800-meter race for women had only been introduced 4 years earlier in Rome, so not many women were experienced in this distance, and for her personally, she had no preconcpetions about how to run the race. But being naïve, and being a sprinter, was Packer’s advantage. As she later said, “ignorance proved to be bliss.”

Sport Illustrated also noted the Packer cool, a modesty and lack of concern about the bigness of the moment, and that her future husband had to re-emphasize to Packer that her achievements were indeed a big deal.

“But what is it, really?” Ann said. “So many have won medals. I don’t think it is better than doing anything else well. I won a gold medal because I ran twice around a track, that’s all.”

Brightwell looked at her. “I don’t think you realize