BRENDA JONES-CARR (17 Nov 1936 – )
Brenda was born in Leongatha and spent her early years in country Victoria before moving to Clayton in Melbourne in 1952. At school she loved sports including athletics and softball and whilst at Dandenong High School her sports mistress suggested she join an athletic club. She was introduced to 1952 Olympic Winsome Cripps who suggested she join the Glenhuntly Athletic club.
She began work at Myers and trained on the Caulfield Racecourse where she met her coach and future husband Don Carr who suggested she should train for the 800 metres. Unfortunately there was then no 800 at club events so Brenda joined the Glenhuntly Club committee, became a delegate to the VWAAA and persuaded them to include it.
In 1955 Brenda finished second in the 880 yards and third in the 440 yard at the Victorian State Championships. A year on, she won her first state title in the 880 in 2.18.7 from Joyce Hangar and was selected for the Nationals in Brisbane where she was narrowly beaten by Hangar by a tenth. She also finished fourth in the 440. In her career she won 15 state titles on the track over 440 and 880yds and 1,500 metres.
Unfortunately for Brenda none of these events were on the program for women at the Olympic Games in 1956 and so she would have to wait another four years for an opportunity to represent her country. There was some compensation – a role of raising the medal winners flags during the victory ceremonies at the Main Stadium.
As Brenda won the double at the 1958 Nationals at Royal Park, Melbourne in 57.0 and 2.16.5 there was good news on the horizon with the 800 metres to be re-instated to the women’s athletics program for the 1960 Olympics, having previously been run in 1928. There was still no inclusion of the 400 metres.
At the Nationals in Hobart Brenda finished fifth in the 440 and then narrowly lost her 880 title by one tenth in 2.09.6 to Dixie Willis. Both girls were selected for Rome. Faced with the difficulty of training on grass in the winter cold, an approach was made to the Olympic Park Trustees to use the cinder track. It was granted for two days each week.
With three meets under her belt in Sydney prior to departure Brenda felt ready for the Olympics, but two days before the 800 heats she sustained an injury to the joint of her toe, requiring a pain killing injection. Drawn in the first heat, she stayed close to the leaders throughout, finishing second in 2.11.15 and qualifying for the final. Team mate Willis won her heat in the fastest time of 2.06.03.
There were nine runners in the final the next day and Willis set a fast pace of 60 seconds for the first lap, with Brenda in close attendance along with world record holder Shevtsova (USSR) and the two Germans Donath and Kummerfeldt. Willis led into the straight as Donath began to fade but with 70 metres to go she was passed by Shevtsova and Jones, hit the curb and forced off the track, fell to her knees.
Shevtsova held a narrow lead as Jones edged closer but the Soviet runner held on to win gold and equal her world record of 2.04.3 (2.04.50) with Jones a tenth behind in 2.04.4 (2.04.58) for silver. Willis returned to the track and finished ninth.
After the Games Brenda was invited to run in Amsterdam by the Dutch Federation and Fanny Blankers-Koen to commemorate the original Olympic 800 in 1928, winning in a new Dutch record.
Brenda won the 1961 state cross-country championships and continued her track career, finishing second in the 1962 Nationals in Adelaide behind Dixie Willis 2.09.6 to 2.12.1. She then sailed with and Joan Beretta to London to compete in the English summer season, training on the ship deck. In England they competed on grass and due to the change of surface from board to grass they both sustained Achilles injuries. Brenda couldn’t compete due to the injury, eventually returning home and missing the chance of selection for the Commonwealth Games.
Brenda won the 1963 National cross-country title in Brisbane and then in 1964 returned to England with husband Don and competed there for Highgate Harriers for the next three years. During this time she ran a 4.53.9 mile in Dublin in 1965 and in 1967 won the Middlesex County Cross-Country Championships in 1967.
On her return to Australia, Brenda competed at the 1968 Nationals in Adelaide, winning the 1500 in 4.33.3 and finishing third in the 800 in 2.13.4. She also won the 3km cross-country in 11.39.2 later that year in Sydney. She was also VWAAC winter secretary and successfully sought the inclusion of women’s road relays on the National program.
In 1969 Brenda came second in the 1500 and third in the 800m and after a fifth in the National cross-country in Melbourne, was selected to compete in the International Cross-Country Championships in 1970 in the USA, also being appointed team manager. She withdrew due to the impending birth of her son Brendan that September.
Demonstrating extraordinary longevity in the sport, Brenda continued to compete winning her last title in 1975 - the State Cross-Country, before finishing sixth at the Nationals in Perth.
Brenda was coach of Waverley WAAC from 1973 to 1979 and her squad included Michelle Baumgartner, Joanne Schmidt and Cathy Milburn. From 1980 to 1987 she coached privately. In retirement she became an accomplished Lawn Bowler.
Paul Jenes OAM
Acknowledgements: Glenhuntly Athletic Club, Trevor Vincent, Paul Jenes & Peter Hamilton - Australian Athletics Results; IAAF World Records; Brenda Carr; Brian Roe