The Tokyo Olympics, now under way, will bring back many memories for former local Illawarra Blue Stars athlete and 1964 Tokyo Olympian, Robyn Woodhouse Sillitoe. There are many similarities between the high jumpers for Australia who will take to the field next week, and Woodhouse and her strong Australian rival Michelle Mason Brown in 1964.
Like Robyn, our top jumper for Tokyo, Nicolle McDermott, is also a member of a country club, Mingara. McDermott and compatriot Elenore Patterson are the two most promising female high jumpers Australia has sent to an Olympic Games since 1964.
Robyn had her sights set on the 1964 Olympics and was primed well for Tokyo by her coach from Mt Keira. She had the most unusual style but it was perfected by this talented young lady. She had just come off a brilliant display of jumping to win gold at the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962, with Australia taking out 1st, 2nd and 3rd with another country girl, Helen Frith finishing in second and Mason in 3rd.
The scene was set for Tokyo 1964, but they all knew that they were up against the best in the world, like our two jumpers this year in McDermott and Patterson. Our athletic community will be glued to the TV this coming week when these two talented high jumpers, both ranked in the world, like Woodhouse and Mason, take to the field.
Robyn and Michelle swapped placings on many occasions, with Mason taking out the national titles prior to Tokyo ahead of Woodhouse, but both were selected for the team to head to the Olympic Games. Both knew what they were there for, they both knew they were among the world's best. The 1964 event saw the great Romanian athlete Iolanda Balas win gold, with Mason taking silver with a great jump in those days of 1.80 metres, a PB for her.
Robyn, who this week must be reflecting on her performance in Tokyo, jumped well in one of the most tightly contested women's high jump for some time. She cleared the height of 1.70 metres to make the final and was in fourth place, only to be bumped back to 11th after so many fought it out on a countback.
The 1964 Games were the beginning of top high jumping In Australia, and it paved the way for jumpers of today such as McDermott and Patterson. Mason went on to become the first woman from Australia to clear the magical 6ft (in those days), whilst McDermott has now become the first Australian to clear the 2 metres mark.
McDermott and Patterson are both tough, determined competitors, very similar to Mason and Woodhouse. As in 1964, the scene is set for Australian high jumpers to make their mark against the world's best. Will Tokyo 2021 (2020) see a repeat of 1964, when women's high jumping came of age? Will we see our women of today make the final and prove to the world they are among the best?
I know a person sitting in her lounge room in Balgownie with husband and great supporter, Allan, will certainly hope so. Tokyo has been good to our local, long-time member and supporter of Illawarra Blue Stars, Robyn Woodhouse-Sillitoe, lets hope it continues with McDermott and Patterson.
Who will be the top placed jumper next week from the Australian camp, we don't know, but don't write off Patterson. She has grown in maturity, and has the natural talent of a top line high jumper.
Both high jumpers, like Woodhouse and Mason, will certainly put Tokyo down as their favourite place, if either, or both finish in the medals. One big difference with our current high jumpers is that both use the "flop" for their chosen style of jumping. Woodhouse used a very unusual style whilst Mason used the scissors style of jumping. How times have changed, but we know that our local Olympian Robyn Woodhouse-Sillitoe helped set the scene in women's high jumping, to reach the standard that it is today.
Due to COVID restrictions, some of Blue Stars athletes have contested a satellite cross-country. At the time of print, athletes took part in their own race, on their own course, for the second run. Athletes had to choose their course but must have had hills and not a flat surface. They recorded their times, and on Sunday, did the same course and compared times. A little bit of outdoor exercising but also a way for some of our athletes to maintain their fitness level. Leader of the 2km after the first round was Andrew Rodda from Lisa Quinn, whilst the 4km was close between Jess Hogg and Tim Martin.