[Skip to content]

Search our Site
  • Instagram Icon
  • RSS Icon
  • Twitter Icon
  • Facebook Icon
  • YouTube Icon
UK Athletics

Mary bignal/rand

Share this

Share to Twitter Share to Facebook Tell friends via WhatsApp Email us
Mary Rand

Full Name: Mary Denise Rand

Date of Birth: 10 February 1940

Born: Wells, Somerset.

Club: London Olympiades.

Coach: John Le Masurier.

Career summary


Perfect Vision

At the end of 1964, Mary Rand was named the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year, succeeding her British teammate, the sprinter Dorothy Hyman. She won this honour after an extraordinary summer, culminating in her winning the Long Jump gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. She set the standard for so many others to follow when she became the first British woman to win an Olympic title - and those standards were met very quickly when six days later, her roomate Ann Packer won the 800m.

How It All Started

Having gained a scholarship to go to Millfield School in her home county of Somerset, Rand, or Miss Bignal as she was then, showed her athletics prowess by finishing second at high jump and fourth at long jump in the WAAA Championships in 1956 when she was 16. Immediately, she had demonstrated brilliant signs of excelling in different events and it was not long before the Pentathlon became her forte. She set the first of her six British records at the five-pronged event by the age of 18 when she was seventh with 4466 points at the European Championships in Stockholm in 1958 before winning silver in the Long Jump at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. Her domestic record breaking was immense, but the Olympic Games in Rome did not quite go as planned.


Waiting For Gold

Still Mary Bignal by the time of the Olympics in Italy, she was the favourite for gold having achieved a personal best jump in the qualifying competition of a Games where she also competed in the 80m hurdles.But the final turned into a major disappointment. She recorded two fouls, re-marked her run-up but it was not to be and she finished ninth. The next day she was fourth in the 80m hurdles but athletics-wise, it was now a four-year wait to put it right on the Olympic stage - and by then she had a different name and she was a mother. She married British Olympic rower Sidney Rand, who competed for Britain in Melbourne in 1956 and in Rome, and she gave birth to their daughter Alison in the spring of 1962. Such was her strength and tenacity that four months later she was not only back competing for Britain, but she was on the podium. Rand won bronze medals in the Long Jump and sprint relay at the European Championships in Belgrade and her talent seemed to have no end because the following year, on August 5, she was part of the British 4 x 110y relay team which broke the world record against the USA at the White City Stadium. Rand ran second, taking the baton from Madeleine Cobb, handing onto Daphne Arden before Hyman brought the team home. Next stop Rome…and no mistake this time.


Just As She Hoped

Prior to the Games, Rand said: “What I would love to do at the Olympics would be to win with a world record." From her mouth to the day in October 14 when her wishes were granted. Rand had led after the qualifying competition of the Long Jump and in the final, this time she showed speed and composure to produce a performance which ranks among the best series of jumps in the history. Four of her six were her best ever, and after 6.59m, 6.56m, 6.57m and 6.63m, the fifth was the most sensational when she leapt 6.76m. It was a world record - just as she had hoped for, but not that she knew it at the time. Rand was not too clued up with the metric conversions and after she had jumped 22 feet, and two-and-a-quarter inches, she had to delve into her kit bag by the side of the track and work out the conversion for herself from the programme.

With her success, blond hair and great looks, she had become the first Golden Girl of British athletics, earning her place in the sport’s folklore. She was the first British athlete since Tom Hampson, winner of the 800m in Los Angeles in 1932, to triumph in the Olympics with a world record  But her Games were far from over. She won the silver medal in the Pentathlon with a British record 5035 points, finished fourth in the 80m hurdles before earning a bronze in a dramatic sprint relay when she combined with Janet Simpson, Daphne Arden and Dorothy Hyman to set a national 4 x 100m relay record when they were third in in 44.09 as Poland won gold in 43.69 and the USA took silver in 43.92.  The race became shrouded with drama over the next three years when Ewa Klobukowska, who had run the anchor leg for Poland, became the first athlete to fail a sex test. Poland’s world record from that race was expunged after Klobukowska failed the chromosome test, even though she later she gave birth to a girl. During her career, Rand set 11 British records at the long jump from 6.19 in 1959, and also set British records at 100y 10.6 (1964) and 80m hurdles 10.8 (1963). She was awarded the MBE in 1965. Her private life saw her divorce Sidney Rand and, in 1969, she married Bill Tooney, of the USA, the Olympic decathlon champion from Mexico the previous year. But then in 1992, after that relationship ended, she married American John Reese and has been a long-time resident in the US.


International Championships

1958: 5th HJ, 2nd LJ Commonwealth Games; 7th Pen Europeans

1960: 4th 80mh, 9th LJ Olympics

1962: 3rd LJ & 4x100m Europeans

1964: 1st LJ, 2nd Pen, 3rd 4x100m Olympics

1966: 3rd 60m, 2= HJ, 2nd LJ European Indoors; 1st LJ Commonwealth Games; 4th Pen, 11th LJ Europeans

UK Internationals: 40 (1957-67)

National Championships

Won WAAA 80m hurdles 1959, 100m hurdles 1966, HJ 1958, LJ 1959, 1961, 1963-5; pentathlon 1959-60; Indoor 60yh, HJ & LJ 1966; Inters HJ & LJ 1956.

Personal bests

100y 10.6 (1964), 10.96 (1965); 100m 11.7 (1963), 200m 23.99A, 23.69Aw (1967), 80mh 10.8 (1963), 10.89 (1967); 100mh 14.1 (1967), 100mh 2’6” hurdles 13.4 91965), 13.3w (1963); high jump 1.72m (1964), shot 11.29 (1964), Pen 4578/5035 (1964).

Indoors: 60y 7.4 (1966), 50yh (2’6” hurdles) 7.7 (1968), LJ 6.53 (1966)