The day Shirley Strickland taught me to hurdle

Tina Mulholland, Crows Nest Centre design guru

Once, when I was about 11, Shirley Strickland came to our house.

I have no idea why but, because my house was a guest house, she was probably visiting a guest staying there.

I was hitting a tennis ball against the back wall of the garage and she said hello. Shirley had won gold, hurdling in the Helsinki and Melbourne Olympics in the ‘50s, and we got chatting about hurdling, at which I was mediocre at school.

She kindly offered to give me some tips and asked me to take position as if I was leaping over a hurdle. She took my bare foot in her hand and gently adjusted its angle.

While I was self-conscious that my foot was dirty, I felt as if something magical had just happened.

Sure enough, from that moment my hurdling improved dramatically and I moved up from one of the last in races to right up the front.

1956 Melbourne Olympics. 80 metres hurdle, 1st Semi Final, last jump. Shirley Strickland (left) and Gisela Kohler are neck and neck. Public Record Office Victoria https://prov.vic.gov.au/archive/FB80174A-F7F3-11E9-AE98-AB22ED733D1F/content?image=1