Shirley Strickland: Wikis


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Shirley Strickland
Shirley Strickland.jpg

Statue of Shirley Strickland outside
the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Nationality:  Australia
Club: University, Applecross, Melville
Date of birth: 19 July 1925(1925-07-19)
Place of birth: Guildford, Western Australia
Residence: Perth, Western Australia
Date of death: 11 February 2004 (aged 78)
Place of death: Applecross, Western Australia
Height: 1.715 metres (5 ft 7.5 in)
Weight: 50.8 kilograms (112 lb)
Medal record
Women’s Athletics
Competitor for  Australia
Olympic Games
Gold 1952 Helsinki 80 metre hurdles
Gold 1956 Melbourne 80 metre hurdles
Gold 1956 Melbourne 4x100 m relay
Silver 1948 London 4x100 m relay
Bronze 1948 London 100 metres
Bronze 1948 London 80 metre hurdles
Bronze 1952 Helsinki 100 metres
British Empire Games
Gold 1950 Auckland 80 metre hurdles
Gold 1950 Auckland 3×110/220 yd
Gold 1950 Auckland 4×110/220 yd
Silver 1950 Auckland 100 yards
Silver 1950 Auckland 220 yards

Shirley Barbara Strickland (18 July 1925 – 11 February 2004), later Shirley de la Hunty, was an Australian athlete. She won more Olympic medals than any other Australian in running sports.



Shirley was the only daughter, the second of five children. She grew up on the family farm east of the wheatbelt town of Pithara, Western Australia.

Her father, Dave Strickland, had been a Victorian goldfields worker and also an athlete. He was unable to compete in the 1900 Summer Olympics because he lacked the money for a trip to Paris.[1] Instead, in 1900, he directed his efforts to the Stawell Gift 130-yard (120-m) foot-race, winning in 12 seconds off a handicap of 10 yards.[2] His performance was considered to be as good as Stanley Rowley's times, which won the Australian amateur sprint titles that season. Rowley went on to win two bronze medals in the sprints at the 1900 Paris Olympics. He subsequently went on to play one senior game of Australian Rules football with Melbourne VFL team St Kilda in 1900.[3]


Shirley Strickland's early education was by correspondence, but she later attended Northam High School, where, beginning in 1939, she won 47 out of 49 events as a schoolgirl athlete.[4] After high school she entered the University of Western Australia where she graduated as a Bachelor of Science in 1946 with honors in physics. In her spare time, she lectured mathematics and physics to returned servicemen at Perth Technical College, played wing in the university hockey team and gained a reputation as an extremely gifted sprinter and hurdler. While teaching at Perth Technical College, she was coached by Austin Robertson, a former world professional sprint champion and South Melbourne footballer.[1] She improved her 100 m yards time from 11.8 to 11.0 flat. At the 1947 Western Australia state titles, she won the 100 yards, 220 yards, 440 yards, the 90 m yards hurdles and the shot put.

Athletic career

The following year, she took up running seriously, with great success. She won the national title in the 80 m hurdles in 1948 and was part of the Australian delegation for the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. There, Strickland finished third in both the 100 m and 80 m hurdles and won a silver medal in the 4x100 m relay.

After winning three gold medals in the 1950 British Empire Games, she won her first Olympic title at the 1952 Games in Helsinki; she won the 80 m hurdles in world record time (10.9 s). A baton mix-up cost her a second gold in the 4x100 m relay. In the 100 m, she again won the bronze.

She set a new world record of 11.3 s for the 100 m in Poland in 1955, and in the 1956 Olympics, she won again in the 80 m hurdles and with the Australian 4x100 m relay team.


She maintained her Olympic involvement, in athlete administration, with the Australian teams during the 1968 and 1976 Olympics in Mexico City and Montreal.

Shirley de la Hunty stood several times without success as a candidate for the Australian Democrats in the 1980s, resigning from the party to contest the 1989 WA Legislative Council election as an independent, again without success She later served as a local government councillor for the City of Melville.

She was one of the bearers of the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, New South Wales. She carried the Olympic Torch as one of the runners for the final segment in the stadium, before the lighting of the Olympic Flame.

In 2001 Shirley attracted media attention by auctioning all of her sporting memorabilia including her Olympic gold medals.[4] She was criticised by some for that but asserted she had a right to do so and the income generated would help pay for her grandchildren's education and allow a sizable donation to assist in securing old-growth forests from use by developers. Her memorabilia was eventually acquired for the MCG Museum in Melbourne by a group of anonymous businessmen who shared her wish that the memorabilia would stay in Australia.

Personal life

In 1950, she married geologist Lawrence Edmund de la Hunty, who had been one of her students in physics lectures. She had four children: Phillip (born 1953), Barbara (1957), Matthew (1960) and David (1963). Matthew was the lead singer in Tall Tales and True. Lawrence died of a heart attack in 1980.

Her body was found on 16 February 2004 on her kitchen floor, but the coroner determined that she died on the evening of 11 February. There was no full autopsy and the coroner said the cause of death was "unascertainable", though "not inconsistent with natural causes".

She was honoured with a state funeral.

In 2005, some members of her family approached the coroner regarding the circumstances of her death. In 2006 an investigation was conducted by detectives from the major crime squad. In 2008 probate was granted after a dispute over her will was resolved in the Supreme Court.

External links

Other sources

  • Death of a Golden Girl article, Jane Cadzow, Sydney Morning Herald "Good Weekend" magazine, 21 January 2006




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