Commonwealth Sport Legends
Boxers who win Olympic gold medals have a direct route to fame and fortune.
After the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Pete Rademacher, the American heavyweight gold medallist, fought for the world title in his first contest as a professional and even knocked down the champion, Floyd Patterson, before losing in the sixth round.
Another big name from those Games was Jose Torres, a silver medallist who would win a light-heavyweight world title before becoming President of the World Boxing Organization, and biographer of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.
Dick McTaggart, from Dundee, the lightweight Olympic champion in Melbourne and winner of the trophy for the most stylish boxer, also won a title two years later - as an amateur, in the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff.
The Scot was earning only £8 a week as a labourer but professional boxing was not for him.
"I still have a video recording of my first round win in Cardiff, against an Australian," said McTaggart, who turned 85 in 2020.
It was against John Leckie and it was no surprise that the Scot won easily.
"I had fought 250 times by then," he said.
McTaggart went to the Olympics again and won a bronze in 1960, the year when Cassius Clay won gold before later changing his name to Ali.
He again said "no" to offers to join them in turning professional, and was back at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia in 1962.
It was three or four days each way to get to Perth and back, with several refuelling stops, and on the way out "there was nothing to do but eat", he said.
That meant McTaggart and his team-mates arrived several pounds overweight.
They trained hard to trim back down, and McTaggart should have won a second gold, and thereby become the first man to win Commonwealth gold at different weights.
He lost, though, in one of the most controversial decisions in Games history.
McTaggart's opponent in the final was Clement "Isaac" Quartey, who had become Ghana's first ever Olympic medallist in Rome with a light welterweight silver.
His father had five wives and 27 children and one of them, Ike, born in 1969, would become a world champion many years later.
McTaggart appeared to have won every round but the verdict was given to Quartey.
It came as such a shock to Quartey that he fainted.
"He fell down in front of me, and stayed down," said McTaggart.
"I nearly fainted myself."
According to one report, Quartey was unconscious for five minutes.
Did McTaggart make a protest?
"No, but the Scottish Association did, and one of the officials was sacked," he said.
"It was a terrible decision but that's how it goes sometimes.
"There were fights I lost that I thought I'd won, and there were times when it worked the other way. That was a really bad one, though."
McTaggart remained amateur until he retired in 1965, by when he had become an oil technician for Rolls Royce.
"I didn't like the idea of 25 per cent for him, and 15 per cent for him and so on. I boxed for fun, for laughs," he said.
"Professional boxing is all work and wages, no fun. I enjoyed the freedom to have the odd drink and a fag when I felt like it."
McTaggart stayed with the sport as a coach, for Britain in the Olympics and Scotland in the Commonwealth Games.
"I've been all over the world, had a great time," he said.
Between 1956 and 1965, McTaggart, from a family of boxers, won five national titles.
He fought 634 times, winning 610. A sports centre in Dundee is named after him.
"He was the best amateur I ever saw," said Harry Carpenter, the legendary "voice of boxing" on the BBC.
The fact that the marathon world record holder is a Kenyan and seven different Kenyan men have held world records at 5,000 metres and 10,000m would surprise nobody who follows athletics, given the nation's remarkable record in distance running over the past 50 years.
What might come as a surprise to many, though, is that when Seraphino Antao became the first gold medallist on the track for Kenya at a major athletics event, he did it in the sprints.
Antao, whose family was originally from Goa, was a phenomenal talent in the sport's amateur days and was clearly among the best in the world.
His golden double in Australia, at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, led to Antao receiving a personal telegram from Jomo Kenyatta, who would become Kenya's first President in 1964.
Kenyatta told him: "You have really become Kenya's priceless jewel in sports...please accept our profound appreciation of your tremendous successes."
In the year when Kenyatta stepped up from Prime Minister to the Presidency, Antao had the honour of carrying the flag for Kenya at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
But the nation's appreciation of him, or of those who had settled in Kenya after moving from the subcontinent, would wane when Asians were made to feel unwelcome and many left throughout the 1960s.
Antao was one of them, moving to England after he had given up athletics.
At the height of his success, Antao was a match for anybody.
In Perth, he finished ahead of Tom Robinson of The Bahamas in the 100 yards, which he won in 9.5sec.
"Joy and pride engulfed my whole body when I hit the tape ahead of everybody else," he said.
In the 220 yards, his 20.9sec equalled the Games record and was too good for David Jones of England, half a second behind.
In the same year he won the AAA Championships sprint double at White City in London.
Nicknamed Kelly throughout his life, Antao was a good footballer whose speed was spotted by an athletics coach in Mombasa when he was having fun with friends and family (he was the eldest of six sporty siblings).
His times for the sprints at his first local meeting, where he ran barefoot, were only just outside the national records.
For eight years he trained six days a week on the beach and in the stadium, while working full time for the Landing and Shipping Company in Mombasa.
Antao retired from athletics after the Tokyo 1964 Games, where he was not at his best, and moved to London with "a career to pursue".
When he died in 2011, there was a memorial service for him in Mombasa as well as in north Kent where he lived.
“He was unknown here, and never tried to use his athletic fame to his advantage," said Jones, the silver medallist in Perth.
"He was a lovely man, quiet but charming."
The scheduling of the athletics programme, and the disruption to it caused by a royal appearance, did no favours to Yvette Williams at the Vancouver Commonwealth Games in 1954.
She entered four events and two of them, long jump and discus, were scheduled to start an hour apart on the afternoon of the legendary "Mile of the Century" race between Roger Bannister and John Landy.
"But because the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at the stadium later than expected the discus was put back an hour, which meant the two events coincided," said Williams, one of New Zealand's all-time great athletes.
"This caused me a real problem as the long jump was held on one side of the stadium and the discus on the opposite side, 100 metres or more away.
"So I had to have one long jump then dash across the stadium, change from my long jump spikes to my discus throwing shoes, have a throw then head back for another long jump.
"This continued throughout the two competitions - 12 dashes across the stadium and 12 changes of shoes.
"I was very, very busy."
Despite all that, Williams won gold in both events.
"Considering the circumstances I believe that winning the two events at the same time was probably the best performance of my career," she said.
And what a career it was.
Williams was the first woman to be named New Zealand "sportsman" of the year, in 1950, when she was the star of the show at the Auckland Games, winning gold in the long jump and silver in the javelin despite the fact she had barely thrown one before.
She took the award again in 1952, the year she won Olympic long jump gold in Helsinki. After which, she was given a huge public reception in Auckland on her return, and open-car parades all the way home to Dunedin.
Six months before the Vancouver Games, at the age of 23, Williams broke the long jump world record set by the great Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen.
Both Williams and Blankers-Koen would have made outstanding pentathletes or heptathletes, but no such thing existed until the 1960s and the women's multi-disciplinary events were not part of the Commonwealth Games until 1970.
"Yes, I would have liked it if the pentathlon or heptathlon had been on the programme," Williams once said.
"There was a pentathlon organised for me in Dunedin once and I think I went quite close to the world record."
Williams was not only an outstanding all-round track and field athlete, she also played basketball for her country.
After she won Olympic gold in the long jump in 1952, New Zealand had to wait 40 years to cheer their next female Olympic champion, sailor Barbara Kendall in Barcelona.
Williams trained three times a day, as well as working full-time.
"I used concrete blocks and sandbags for weights," she said. "I would honestly say I trained harder than most athletes of today."
Williams married in 1954 and retired from athletics to start a family. She had four children, and taught PE at local schools.
Sally Gunnell had never competed at a major championships before her appearance as a 20-year-old at the Edinburgh 1986 Commonwealth Games, and when she won the sprint hurdles she was in a quandary.
"I felt, not exactly embarrassed, but uncomfortable," Gunnell said.
"I had never celebrated before, didn't know what to do, hadn't even really watched celebrations. I was shocked, really naive. I did eventually get a flag and run round the track."
Over the years Gunnell would do the same again many times.
She won plenty more Commonwealth Games races in 1990 and 1994, Olympic gold in 1992 and the World Championships a year later in a world record time - but not as a sprint hurdler.
It was after that Edinburgh win that her coach Bruce Longden, with whom she had worked since her early teenage years, told Gunnell what he thought.
"I won in Edinburgh and I thought I was pretty good, and he said 'but do you want to be the best in the world?'
“He knew then that I wouldn't be, at 100, when I was probably ranked 20 to 30 in the world.
"I ran the 100 in the 1987 Worlds and at the very end of the season he said 'go and run a 400 hurdles'. It was probably in the Southern League or something. I thought 'that's going to hurt' but I knew what pain was. I was prepared to have a go, and it just took off.
"I qualified for both at the 1988 Olympics and was eliminated in the heats of the 100 but got to the 400 final. Bruce was a very good judge, had a good overview."
As a 400 metre hurdler Gunnell never looked back.
The period between the start and end of Gunnell's Commonwealth games appearances, 1986 to 1994, featured all sorts of distractions because of political boycotts and the transition of athletics from an amateur to a professional sport.
In Edinburgh, the Games were knocked sideways when half the Commonwealth stayed at home because of the presence of New Zealand, whose rugby team still competed against South Africa when most of the rest of the world would have nothing to do with the apartheid regime.
"I was 20-years-old and completely oblivious to all the boycott stuff, all the politics," said Gunnell.
"I didn't expect to be in the team and I was just chuffed to be there. I wasn't reading all the papers."
Gunnell was in England's victorious 4x400m relay teams in New Zealand in 1990 and Canada in 1994. She won five golds and a silver in her six Commonwealth Games races.
There were absentees from her final appearance too, though not because of a boycott.
With the World Championships by now well established, and much more money available to athletes, the Games in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1994 were to many an unwanted interruption to the European meetings circuit.
The top Kenyan runners stayed away, as did the great Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey, and England's Roger Black. The European Championships were held shortly before the Commonwealth Games and several other British athletes were wavering.
"Quite a few people questioned whether they should be going, saying it was 'only' the Commonwealth Games," said Gunnell.
"I was the women's team captain and I remember having a conversation with Linford Christie, the men's captain, about how important it was for everybody to be there.
"Above all, though, it was the Friendly Games, a chance to relax a bit and enjoy it. When I think back over my athletics years, all the fondest memories are from the Commonwealth Games, the fun, the stories.
"It's less intense, not as big as the Olympics, everybody speaks the same language and you tend to chat more to other nationalities."
Her victory in 1994 made Gunnell the first woman to become reigning world, Olympic, Commonwealth and European champion, as well as a world record holder. Did she remember that?
"To be honest, no," she said. "Not until somebody pointed it out later. What I do remember is having a day off to go out to see the whales."
When HRH Prince Philip died in April 2021, the Commonwealth Games lost one of its great supporters. He was a member of the Royal Family who appeared to prefer the company of athletes and informal occasions to the stuffiness of dignitaries and formal events.
His informality went down well with athletes, as highlighted by the great Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser when she recalled a lunch on board the Royal yacht Britannia in Melbourne in 1963.
By then Fraser, one of the all-time great swimmers, had set world records and won three Olympic titles. She also won six gold medals at the Commonwealth Games - including four in Perth the year before at a Games attended by Prince Philip.
In the days of amateur sport, Fraser, a well-known "larrikin" from a working class background who often found herself in trouble with the sporting authorities, was working as a saleswoman at a local shop when she was invited to meet The Queen and Prince Philip on their tour.
Before lunch was served, Dame Pattie Menzies, the arch conservative wife of Australia's longest-serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, "came and told me loudly about table manners, how to use the cutlery etc".
"Invited to dine with The Queen in a select group and then looked down upon by petty people who felt they were better than I was - I felt like giving her a piece of my mind but assured her I had been trained very nicely by my mother and father, thank you, although sometimes we just used our fingers," Fraser said.
Fraser sat next to Prince Philip, who then "sent up Dame Pattie by laboriously explaining in a mock serious way that I should start from the outside and work my way in and if we skipped a course I should also skip the cutlery".
By then Prince Philip had attended three Commonwealth Games, and had become President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, a role he held for 35 years.
He officially opened six Games, starting in Cardiff in 1958, where Fraser won two golds and fell asleep drunk in a flower bed after a night out.
Prince Philip piloted himself to Cardiff in a Heron plane, which he flew from London.
Because of other engagements, The Queen did not join her husband at the Games until 1970, by which time Prince Philip was a regular.
At the end of those Games he and The Queen made sure that complaints from an Australian team official were drowned out when athletes climbed onto a Land Rover carrying the Royal Family.
There was no need for anyone to apologise for "a spontaneous and honest expression of feeling".
Prince Philip's first Games visit was in 1954, when he saw the famous "mile of the century" race between Roger Bannister and John Landy in Vancouver.
Within 45 minutes of that race the British marathon runner Jim Peters entered the stadium 17 minutes ahead of his nearest pursuer, only to collapse repeatedly in the 28 degree heat, leading to disqualification when he was helped to his feet.
Peters was taken to hospital and never fully recovered. His most treasured possession was a medal given to him by Prince Philip "as a token of admiration for a most gallant marathon runner".
The official report of those Games highlighted the fact that Prince Philip visited the Athletes' Village and "dined informally cafeteria style with as many of the athletes as possible".
At the 1966 Games in Kingston, Jamaica, a 15-year-old Princess Anne and a 17-year-old Prince Charles accompanied their father, and Anne enjoyed the post-Games party when she danced with the 4ft 10in weightlifter Precious McKenzie.
Once more, informality was to the fore.
After the friendliest Games of all, Christchurch 1974, a letter signed "Philip" was sent to the organisers from Buckingham Palace.
He told hem: "The City of Christchurch deserves the warmest thanks and congratulations from everyone who had any part in the Commonwealth Games.
"The Games have never been happier or more successful.
"Judging by the friendly atmosphere in the Village, at the competitions and during the social events, I am sure that all competitors, officials and spectators went home with a better idea of what the Commonwealth means, and with a better understanding of their Commonwealth partners."
Dame Louise Martin, the CGF President, said Prince Philip "will be forever remembered for a lifetime of dedicated service to the Commonwealth".
The biggest hero for the Scottish crowds at the Edinburgh 1986 Commonwealth Games was, by some distance, Liz Lynch, who was unemployed and on the dole when she won the 10,000 metres by a wide margin.
A year later she married and became Liz McColgan, under which name she would go on to become a record-breaking world champion, Olympic silver medallist and one of Britain's most popular athletes. She was so popular that in 1991, the year after she retained her Commonwealth Games title, she won the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
In those troubled Edinburgh Games, which were almost derailed by a political boycott that left 1,500 athletes at home, McColgan was Scotland's only gold medallist in athletics.
She had plenty of support from the public but not, she felt, from Scotland's sports authorities, as she had been to the United States on a scholarship and had no financial help from her own country.
Life had been hard for McColgan from her childhood in Dundee.
She was brought up in a block of flats in Whitfield, a tough area where one of her neighbours said after her victory: "That'll show them there's more than criminal records come out Whitfield."
Years later McColgan said that without her love of athletics, and the encouragement of her PE teacher at school and her first coach Harry Bennett, she would not have had a good life.
"I would probably be on the dole, I would be smoking and drinking," she said.
"That is the lifestyle I came from, and I still have family members with that lifestyle.
"I was very lucky that I chose a different path from many other members of my family.
"I do not hide where I came from, because it is part of me."
As for that race in Edinburgh, McColgan said she never experienced anything like it again in a career that lasted nearly two decades.
She had returned from the US, where she broke records in college athletics on her scholarship, to train for the Commonwealth Games on her own.
Her coach Bennett, who died while she was in the US, had always told her she would make a great 10,000m runner - even though there was no such distance for women at the time.
It had never been on the programme at the Commonwealth Games before, and McColgan said: "I wasn't a favourite or anything.
"I thought it would just be like running at your local track but the exact opposite happened.
"I was the most nervous I've ever been for a race.
"It felt as if every single person in the stadium was shouting my name, it was so personal.
"The hairs stood up on my neck while I was running.
"I never experienced the same atmosphere at any other championships."
McColgan won by 70 metres, then she lost a bet on the podium.
Two of her fellow runners had bet her she would cry at the medal ceremony.
"I didn't think I would, but the crowd were something else and Scotland the Brave sounded so wonderful," she said.
"It was so overwhelming, totally unbelievable.
"I could never, ever relive that moment."
Lennox Lewis was the last undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and the only man to have held that status in the 21st century.
He was one of the best boxers of all time, and in the view of many fight fans he was the best.
In his professional career Lewis fought as a Briton, but he had spent several years in Canada as a child and saw out his amateur career under the Canadian flag.
He won his first senior international title as a 20-year-old in the Commonwealth Games - and it was without doubt the easiest win of what would become a stellar career.
It came in Edinburgh in 1986 when Lewis became the first super-heavyweight champion, a weight class that had never been contested before.
When he won Olympic gold in Seoul two years later Lewis had to defeat Riddick Bowe, the American who would also become the undisputed heavyweight champion after turning professional.
In Edinburgh he had to beat Aneurin Evans, one of the luckiest medallists in any sport in the history of the Commonwealth Games, and a man who has never been heard of since.
When the BBC cameras focused on Welshman Evans just before the final began, the legendary boxing commentator Harry Carpenter said: "If I were him I'd be running for my life."
Evans did just that - he spent the next few minutes trying, unsuccessfully, to evade the brutal punches of Lewis.
He survived until 23 seconds into round two, when his corner threw in the towel.
By 1986, Lewis had already fought at the Olympics and won a North American championship.
Evans had fought only 20 times in his life, and should not even have been in Edinburgh.
Two days before the Games started there were only two entries in the new super-heavyweight class, Lewis and the Englishman James Oyebola, who had beaten Evans in the ABA final.
The boycott by African countries, protesting over New Zealand's presence at a time when the All Blacks were still playing rugby against apartheid-era South Africa, hurt boxing more than any other sport.
Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia all had strong contenders who stayed at home.
A late rallying call by officials led to Wales nominating Evans, coached by the 1958 Commonwealth bronze medallist Don Braithwaite.
His luck was in: he drew a bye into the final. Lewis made short work of the 6ft 9in Oyebola first, then pounded Evans into submission.
Canada took home half of the 12 boxing golds in Edinburgh.
Lewis was born in London to Jamaican parents, and moved to Ontario with his mother, Violet, for a year.
He returned to London to stay with an aunt, then went back to Canada, aged 12, until he turned professional.
Lewis' elder brother, Dennis, said Lennox was often in trouble in the East End, picked a lot of fights, and "would be in prison or worse" if he had stayed.
In Kitchener, near Toronto, Lewis focused on sport and "turned out to be one of the most beautiful kids", said Violet, who brought him up as a single parent.
Lewis was an outstanding basketball player and a talented footballer and shot-putter, but once he had tried boxing at Arnie Boehm's gym, attached to the Kitchener police headquarters, he was hooked.
He often fought older boys, won six national championships, and went to the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 at 18.
The money and titles started rolling in when he turned professional, and he enjoyed success after success until his retirement in 2004.
While Lewis went on to world fame after 1986, Evans returned to obscurity in South Wales, and later moved to England.
Oyebola fought as a professional, won the British heavyweight title, and fought on the undercard of a Lewis bill in Atlantic City.
He was killed in 2007.
Working in a London nightclub, Oyebola asked three men to stop smoking, and one of them shot him in the neck.
The killer was jailed for life.
When the first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal for archery was presented in 1982, the winner remained on the ground rather than the podium.
Neroli Fairhall did not know if she would fit on the dais but the size problem was not a matter of weight and girth.
Fairhall was paraplegic, and competed from a wheelchair. She was the first wheelchair athlete to win an able-bodied discipline at any major sporting event, not just the Commonwealth Games.
Athletes with disabilities had won Olympic medals before.
The American-German gymnast George Eyser was run over by a train as a boy and lost a leg, but still won six medals, three of them gold, in St Louis in 1904.
The amputee Hungarian water polo player Oliver Halassy was a triple medallist in the 1920s and 1930s.
Another Hungarian, marksman Karoly Takacs, blew up his shooting hand, his right, with a grenade, then learned to shoot left-handed and won gold in 1948 and 1952.
And Lis Hartel, the Danish rider who was paralysed below both knees by polio, won dressage silvers in 1952 and 1956 and had to be lifted on to the dais for the medal ceremonies.
As the 20th century drew to its end, though, nobody had ever competed, never mind won a medal, from a wheelchair at the Olympic Games or the Commonwealth Games.
Fairhall, who was also the first athlete to take part in both the Paralympics and Olympics - in 1980 and 1984 - won gold in Brisbane in a dramatic finish.
The New Zealander needed three 10-pointers from her last three arrows. "Come on, Neroli, do it!" she exhorted herself.
She did it, to win on countback from the Northern Ireland teenager, Janet Yates.
"After that it was all a bit of a blur," she said.
"Suddenly there were all these New Zealanders there behind me saying 'you've done it!'
"When it came to the ceremony, I was always wary of being lifted into the air, so I sat on the ground."
Fairhall, who had a lifelong love of horses, was confined to a wheelchair after a motorbike accident near her home in Christchurch in 1969.
She lay injured for nearly a day before a passing motorist spotted her.
Despite her ordeal she liked to drive fast, and would often overtake team-mates in her Ford Capri on the way to matches.
After trying and failing at shot, discus, and wheelchair sprinting, Fairhall took up archery.
It was tough but she strengthened her arm and stomach muscles by swimming four times a week, and within a few years she was competing at international level.
People would sometimes complain that it was easier for her to shoot from a sitting position, to which Fairhall's reply was: "I wouldn't know, I've never shot standing up."
Fairhall was selected to represent New Zealand at the 1980 Olympics but missed those Games, to her lifelong regret, when her country boycotted Moscow.
She competed at the Paralympics in The Netherlands that year, setting national and Paralympic records.
When Fairhall made it to the Olympics four years later, in Los Angeles, she finished 35th, a disappointing result.
She would have performed better, she felt, without the constant media attention, something she never liked.
In the early days after her accident, Fairhall felt she was given little or no help in learning how to cope as a paraplegic.
Later in life, Fairthall was a frequent visitor to hospital patients who had suffered serious injuries.
Having been awarded an MBE for services to archery, Fairhall retired from competition in 2001 with "a worn-out left shoulder" and continued to coach and encourage archers.
She died in 2006.
Ruth Dyson, a New Zealand Government Minister, said Fairhall was "an inspirational woman for all New Zealanders who did what many thought was impossible, competing against the best in the Commonwealth to win gold".
"Neroli was an example of how a disabled person can overcome the low expectations of others and achieve excellence," she added.
Decima "Dashing Dess" Norman
Charles Garvice was a hugely popular author in the 1890s and early 20th century, selling millions of his romantic novels in the United States and, under the pseudonym Caroline Hart, in Britain and its empire.
His work, according to the critics, could not be regarded as literary and has not aged well. His legacy persists, however - in the sporting record books.
When Garvice wrote Her Heart's Desire in 1897 he named the heroine Decima Deane.
A reader in Perth, Western Australia, was so taken with the book that she persuaded a friend to name her daughter Decima.
The child had been christened Clara Norman but, from then on, would be known as Decima.
In time, Decima would become "Dashing Dess", the first female superstar of what would become the Commonwealth Games, and one of Australia's greatest athletes.
Australia won six golds when the Sydney Cricket Ground hosted the 1938 athletics, and five of them went to Dashing Dess, a record that still stands.
When she moved to Sydney in 1939, the year when she equalled the world record for 100 yards, she was feted and photographed wherever she went, and given a newspaper column and a regular slot on radio.
If only she had been born in another part of Australia, Dashing Dess might have been a rival to "The Flying Housewife", Fanny Blankers-Koen, the Dutch heroine of the 1948 Olympic Games who was named female athlete of the century in 1999.
Norman surely had the ability, but the problem was she was on her own.
There was no women's athletic club in Western Australia in the 1920s and early 1930s, and she could not qualify for national selection without a club.
In 1932 she was spotted by a coach, Frank Preston, who saw great potential despite Norman running "like a hen in flight" with her head over her left shoulder and her arms flapping.
Norman was taken aback.
"My leg action was wrong, my arm action was wrong, I did not run sufficiently on my toes, my balance was not good, my breathing had to be corrected, and so on," she said.
"He pointed out so many faults and corrected me so many times.
"It did not seem possible that a person could have so many faults and still appear a potential champion."
Preston helped to bring about improvement, and Norman also wrote to a top American coach for advice.
She finally got her chance in 1937 when three women's clubs were formed and Western Australia was part of the athletics establishment at last.
At the National Championships in Melbourne she kept winning, and made headlines in all the newspapers.
At the age of 28 Norman was able to show the world what she could do.
For winning the 100 yards, 220 yards, long jump and two relays at the 1938 Games, Norman was "given the sort of ovation at the Sydney Cricket Ground usually reserved for Donald Bradman", according to one report.
That was some achievement, given that Bradman, the greatest cricketer who ever played the game, was at the height of his fame and popularity.
Had war not intervened, Norman would have competed at the Olympic Games planned for Helsinki in 1940.
Had Perth existed on the athletics map a decade earlier, she could have competed internationally many more times.
Dashing Dess was awarded an MBE.
As Clara Hamilton - she reverted to her real forename and married New Zealander Eric Hamilton - she went to Buckingham Palace to receive The Queen's message for the 1982 Brisbane Games.
She was presented with her MBE in Perth in 1983 by Prince Charles, during a royal tour with Princess Diana and their son William.
She died later that year of lung cancer, although she never smoked.
Filbert Bayi's fellow runners knew who he was well enough at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch, New Zealand - but plenty of others had never heard of him or even his country, Tanzania.
"People would ask me, 'are you from Tasmania?' because they had never heard of Tanzania," Bayi told the BBC.
"I had to teach some people about geography."
He taught them about running, too, by winning Tanzania's first Commonwealth Games gold medal in any sport in sensational style.
Bayi ran from the front and broke the American Jim Ryun's 1500 metres world record by nearly a second.
"Perhaps the most devastating piece of front-running by any athlete in a middle-distance race," said the British television commentator David Coleman.
But Coleman was underdoing it, according to the world's first sub-four-minute miler Roger Bannister, who said: "That was the greatest run I have ever seen."
It was the last time a world record was broken on the track at the Commonwealth Games and was arguably more impressive than Bannister's 1954 victory over John Landy, which would therefore make it the all-time top achievement in athletics in the near-100-year history of the Games.
Bayi returned to a hero's welcome and continued to serve in the army and as a sport leader.
He won many more races but was denied a chance at Olympic gold in 1976 because of a boycott by African nations.
He has been secretary general of Tanzania's National Olympic Committee for many years, and with his late wife set up the Filbert Bayi Foundation to build schools, develop athletic talent and provide education for disadvantaged children.
Bayi's famous victory came on the same day in February 1974 when Ronnie Biggs - who took part in the Great Train Robbery in Britain in 1963 and was one of the world's most wanted criminals after years on the run - was arrested in Brazil.
Biggs was on the front page of newspapers and Bayi on the back, all over the Commonwealth.
"I'm very proud of the gold medal and the record, and my country is proud of me," Bayi said.
"When I stood on the podium and heard my anthem, my eyes were glistening."
Bayi had been running well in the build-up to the Christchurch Games but was, in his own view, "an underdog".
The favourite was local hero John Walker, who broke the mile world record in 1975 and won Olympic 1500m gold in Montreal in 1976 in Bayi's absence.
Other strong medal contenders were the Kenyans Ben Jipcho and Mike Boit, and another New Zealander, Rod Dixon.
Bayi beat Ryun's world record by 0.9sec in 3min 32.2sec, ahead of Walker who was also inside Ryun's record time.
Third-placed Jipcho ran the fourth fastest 1500m at that time, and Britain's Brendan Foster was five-and-a-half seconds back in seventh place but still broke the British record.
"It was an amazing race - one of the greatest in history," said Foster.
Not until 1979 did Foster's fellow Briton Seb Coe better Bayi's record.
Looking back at the race, Bayi said: "When I arrived in New Zealand nobody took much notice."
He had led from the front in winning the All-African Games title in Lagos, Nigeria in 1973.
"I felt I would do the same as a front-runner in New Zealand," he said.
"If I ran the way I wanted to they were never going to catch me.
"People thought they would get me in the final 200 metres.
"I was taking it easy, and when John was coming close to me I accelerated in the last 100 metres.
"I jumped up when I saw 'world record' flashing up on the board."
Bayi broke the mile world record in 1975 and would have been a very strong contender in Montreal but for the boycott.
In the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, when he was 27, Bayi won a silver in the steeplechase.
Natalie du Toit
For the first time at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games there was a new prize.
The David Dixon Award, named after the former honorary secretary of the Commonwealth Games Federation, was presented, in a full stadium at the Closing Ceremony, to the athlete who made the best overall contribution to the Games.
Ian Thorpe, the world's greatest swimmer who had won six golds and a silver, was favourite to win it but he did not.
The Daily Mail takes up the story. "Although the Games finale's final act was drenched in a torrential downpour of trademark Manchester proportions the spirit of the occasion could not be dampened," the newspaper said.
"Natalie du Toit, the 18-year-old South African who lost a leg in a horrific moped accident, was chosen as the most outstanding athlete of the Games.
"The 4,000 competitors voted for Natalie above Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe. Somehow it all seemed perfectly appropriate."
Du Toit, said the Daily Mail, had given a "genuinely unified resonance" to the Games.
She had set world records in winning two disability swimming gold medals, and had become the world's first disabled athlete to qualify for a final in an able-bodied event, the 800 metres freestyle.
The crowds loved her.
She remembers feeling very proud, and very wet.
"It certainly did rain," she said.
Later, Du Toit wrapped the trophy in a quilt and took it home to South Africa, unaware that she should have taken a replica instead because the original was made of platinum, gold and silver.
"I just put it in with the laundry and walked straight through customs with it," she said.
"They had to send two people to South Africa to take it back."
Du Toit met Thorpe a few times in Manchester.
"We both seemed to spend a lot of time in dope-testing," she said.
"We would sit and chat, and we shared a lift back to the Village."
It was a chance to share their memories of the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where Thorpe made his mark with four gold medals as a 15-year-old.
Du Toit won none in her three events, but she was only 14.
At 17, Du Toit lost her left leg in an accident.
A woman drove out of a parking space "straight into my leg, not actually into my motorbike, and my leg split, like if you drop a tomato on the ground".
She was in intensive care and "five days later they decided to amputate".
"So, I have an amputation through the knee and a titanium rod and three screws down my femur, and an artificial limb," she said.
Never one to look back on life's 'what ifs', Du Toit just wanted to get back in the pool.
Within a few months she was making great progress, and the following year she was winning medals in Manchester, much to the delight of the crowd.
"I'll never forget the support they gave me, all standing and clapping," she said. "The people in Britain always seem to get behind you."
There were more medals to come in Melbourne and Delhi, and many more at the Paralympics.
Du Toit swam in the Olympics and Paralympics in 2008, and carried the flag for South Africa at both those Games.
She ended her career in the pool at London 2012, and was soon in demand as a motivational speaker.
"The Commonwealth Games has been really special to me," she said.
The Americans have never been eligible to compete in the Commonwealth Games in any of its guises but they did play an important part in its creation.
Bobby Robinson, the founding father of the Games, was inspired in his efforts by the behaviour of the United States team at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.
"Arrogant and obnoxious" was the Canadian's view.
Robinson, the athletics team manager in Amsterdam, had first talked of creating the new "Empire Games", as they were known when they started in 1930, at the Paris Olympic Games in 1924.
He took his efforts to another level four years later.
Among Robinson's gripes in Amsterdam, where Canada made an official complaint, were the absence of a Canadian flag when Percy Williams received his 100m gold medal; the fact that Americans were allowed to train on the track but Canadians were not; a disputed judges' decision in the women's 100m that went in favour of an American when the Canadians thought their runner had won; and a direct insult by Avery Brundage, then the most influential American in the Olympic Movement, to a Canadian team official.
The Toronto Star reported that meetings to discuss the Empire Games were held in Amsterdam "as a direct result of the dominance, real or attempted, by Germany and the United States at the Olympic meet... Robinson finally boiled over and, after consultation with other Canadian officials, met representatives of the other British teams and laid the foundation for what is hoped will be a series of British Empire meets to be held every four years".
Organisers of the inaugural Empire Games in Hamilton, Ontario - where Robinson worked - made clear their aims.
"The event will be designed on an Olympic model, but these Games will be very different," it was said.
"They should be merrier and less stern, and will substitute the stimulus of a novel adventure for the pressure of international rivalry."
Making it happen was a challenge that would have been beyond most people, but not the tireless Robinson.
Melville Marks "Bobby" Robinson left school in Peterborough, Ontario, at 13 and started at the Toronto News as an office boy, working his way up to become sports editor of the Hamilton Spectator in 1908, when he was 20.
He served in the First World War in a machine gun unit, and he also served his local community with distinction.
Robinson was on Hamilton's Education Board - he has a school named after him - and was secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association.
He campaigned for farmers at a time of global economic downturn and was well known and respected throughout Ontario.
Robinson, who was also a lover of athletics, founded a prestigious club before being appointed Canada's Olympic team manager.
His influence helped him to persuade the leaders and businessmen in Hamilton, which was Canada's fifth largest city with a population of 151,000, to support the Empire Games despite the global financial crash.
To help persuade other nations to travel to Hamilton he enlisted the help of Canada's most influential railway man, a former Finance Minister, two bank Presidents and the heads of two local universities.
He dreamed up the idea of an Athletes' Village, of a medal ceremony on the podium, and of using volunteers to help the event run smoothly - all purloined by the Olympic Movement, whose leading figures were guests of honour in Hamilton.
As so many people wanted to watch the live action, he had to arrange for 1,000 extra seats to be installed at the Civic Stadium.
Before the week was out an Empire Games Federation had been formed, and the future of what would become the Commonwealth Games was assured.
Bobby Robinson died in 1974, aged 86, but his legacy lives on.
Harold Abrahams, the British sprinter who won Olympic gold in 1924 before becoming one of the most influential voices in athletics in the first half of the 20th century, wrote: "But for the unbounded enthusiasm and persistency of Mr Robinson, the whole thing would never have started."
"Nigeria creates world sensation" was the headline in the West African Pilot after Emmanuel Ifeajuna's victory in Vancouver in 1954.
"Rejoice with me, oh ye sports lovers of Nigeria," wrote a special correspondent after Ifeajuna had won the high jump.
"Who among our people did not weep for sheer joy when Nigeria came uppermost, beating all whites and blacks together?"
Ifeajuna was the first black African to win an individual gold medal in any sport at any major multi-sport Games.
No wonder he was given a hero's welcome when he returned home, and his picture adorned the cover of school exercise books throughout the land.
Ifeajuna would remain Nigeria's only gold medallist, in Commonwealth or Olympic sport, until 1966.
The next year, on September 25, 1967, he would be dead, shot by firing squad as a crowd of thousands watched.
He was no hero then, to those who hissed as he was tied to a stake.
But some historians have since taken a different view as they look back on the remarkable life, and death, of Emmanuel Ifeajuna.
Nigerians excelled in the high jump in the 1950s, when three of them finished in the top 20 at the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games.
Ifeajuna was not a contender for the 1954 team for Vancouver until, as a 20-year-old outsider, he surprised everybody at the national championships with a jump of 6ft 5.5in and earned his place on the boat.
The high jump was on the first day and Ifeajuna wore only one shoe, on his left foot.
A correspondent wrote: "In his take-off stride his leading leg was flexed to an angle quite beyond anything ever seen but he retrieved position with a fantastic spring and soared upwards as if plucked by some external agency."
Ifeajuna cleared 6ft 8in to set a Games and British Empire record. That leap - just over 2.03 metres - would have been good enough for a silver medal in Helsinki two years earlier.
Soon after his return home, Ifeajuna's sporting career was finished - he was off to study at Ibadan University, he married a year later and then joined the army.
Why did the record-breaking champion stop competing?
"From October, 1954, when he enrolled at Ibadan, he never trained," said his old friend Chief Emeka Anyaoku, nearly 60 years later.
"He never had a coach - only his games master at grammar school - and there were no facilities at the university. He simply stopped.
"He seemed content with celebrating his gold medal.
"He was so gifted, he just did it all himself. Jumping barefoot, or with one shoe, was not unusual where we came from."
Anyaoku joined the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1966, the year when Ifeajuna and others led an attempted coup in Nigeria.
The coup attempt failed but Ifeajuna esacaped and would later return to fight in the Nigerian Civil War on the side of the secessionist state of Biafra.
Anyaoku rose to the highest office in the Commonwealth, secretary general, in 1990.
"I was devastated when I heard the news of the execution," he said.
Ifeajuna was all but written out of Nigeria's sporting history, but Anyaoku said: "The history of the civil war still evokes a two-sided argument.
"He is a hero to many people, though they would more readily talk about his gold medal than his involvement in the war.
"There are people who think he was unjustifiably executed and others who believe the opposite."
According to an official but disputed police report, Ifeajuna pulled the trigger when Nigeria's first Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, was shot and killed during the coup attempt.
Ifeajuna escaped to Ghana, dressed as a woman.
Twenty months later he was back, fighting for the persecuted Igbo people of eastern Nigeria in the civil war that broke out as a consequence of the coup attempt.
Ifeajuna and three fellow officers were accused by their own leader, General Emeka Ojukwu, of plotting against him and the breakaway Republic of Biafra.
They denied charges of treason and said they were trying to save lives and their country by negotiating an early ceasefire with the Federal Government and reuniting Nigeria.
They failed, and they were all executed.
"The first thing I remember about running is how happy it made me feel. By the time I was at high school I wasn't thinking about anything else."
Those are Cathy Freeman's words, spoken as she looked back on a remarkable career in athletics that included, in the view of an Australian television station, a starring role in the greatest moment in her country's Commonwealth Games history.
Running did not just make Freeman happy - it made her globally famous - and in a way that went beyond the boundaries of the sporting world.
That famous Commonwealth Games moment played an important part in Australia's social history.
It happened in Victoria, British Columbia, at the 1994 Games, where Freeman won two gold medals on the track, and won the hearts of millions back home in Australia and all around the world.
When she left for Canada the then 20-year-old made sure she had a flag that had been flown for the first time only 23 years earlier - the Australian Aboriginal Flag.
By then she had become a role model for the Aboriginal population.
Her people had lived in Australia for 50,000 years but the official national flag was designed with little more than a century of colonial rule in mind.
That was why, way back in 1938 when Sydney became Australia's first host city of the then Games, the aboriginal people declared a "day of mourning" rather than join in the celebrations of the "150th birthday" of Australia.
Those celebrations, based on the settlement of the country by Europeans, gave the Aborigines "no reason to rejoice" said their leader Jack Patten.
The Games and all the celebrations around them were yet another example of the Europeans overlooking the indigenous people of Australia and their struggles, he said.
Freeman was born in Mackay, Queensland, three hours from her extended family who lived at Woorabinda, an Aboriginal mission.
Her athletic talent took her away from Mackay but her heart remained there.
Freeman won her first Commonwealth Games gold medal when she was 16, in the sprint relay at Auckland in 1990. In doing so she became the first female Aboriginal gold medallist in the Games’ then-60-year history.
When she won the 400 metres in Victoria she went on a lap of honour with two flags intertwined and the world took notice.
Arthur Tunstall, who was more "Empire" than "Commonwealth" and who was 16 at the time of the 1938 Games, was outraged by Freeman's actions.
In his role as Australia's Chef de Mission he ordered the athletics team officials to inform Freeman not to display the Aboriginal flag after future events, or she would be sent home.
Freeman won the 200m too - and again paraded both flags.
Tunstall reprimanded Freeman and there was a huge public debate back home.
It was Tunstall who took a pasting, not Freeman.
Even Paul Keating, the Australian Prime Minister, said: "The Games revealed that the overall sentiment of Australians is for the reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians."
Freeman mostly kept a dignified silence, but she did say it was the highlight of her athletic career at that point in her life and she wanted to encourage young Aboriginals "to achieve something".
Her pride in both her flags made such an impression that at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Australia's Aboriginal culture was a key theme.
And who was chosen to light the flame at the Opening Ceremony? Cathy Freeman – who then raced to a famous victory in the 400m.
After her retirement from athletics in 2003 - the year after she won another sprint relay gold at the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games - she founded the Cathy Freeman Foundation.
It works with remote communities to close the gap in education between indigenous and non-indigenous Australian children.
Not many sporting heroes go on to become leader of their country, address the United Nations and meet the President of the United States at the White House - but Marcus Stephen did.
Whether any of it would have happened if Stephen had not won Commonwealth Games gold on the weightlifting platform in Auckland in 1990 is impossible to say.
But winning his country's first gold medal in any sport certainly helped - and it led to a public holiday being declared back in Nauru, the tiny Pacific island whose population was 10,000 at the time and is not many more now.
Nauru was known only for one thing in the decades after it gained independence in 1968 and that was guano, the phosphate deposits from bird droppings that had accumulated over millions of years.
For many years after Stephen's victory in the 60 kilograms class snatch - the first of seven Commonwealth Games golds between 1990 and 1998 - it was also known for producing weightlifters, and weightlifting remains Nauru's most popular sport to this day.
Stephen won seven Commonwealth Games golds and five silvers between 1990 and 2002, plus a silver at the World Championships in 1999.
He started a boom in popularity for a sport that had not existed in Nauru before.
"It was incredible," said his coach Paul Coffa, who quit as Australian national coach and moved to Nauru in the 1990s to set up the famous Oceania Weightlifting Institute.
"You just could not believe that while you drove around the island you would see young kids on the sidewalk, in their front gardens, with broomsticks practicing the snatch, and the clean and jerk."
In 1998, the year when Juan Antonio Samaranch, then President of the International Olympic Committee, flew to the island, Nauru had more lifters registered in international competition than China and Russia.
Before Stephen took up the sport, when he was studying in Melbourne, there was no such thing as weightlifting in Nauru.
When Coffa first met and worked with Stephen, who was a teenager at the time, he assumed he was Australian.
Stephen, like many teenagers from Nauru, had been sent to Geelong, near Melbourne, for his education.
He was among the school's best at cricket, rugby and Aussie Rules, but Coffa made sure he focused just on weightlifting.
Nauru had no membership of the Commonwealth Games Federation until three days before the 1990 Games in Auckland, when Stephen was cleared to lift.
He was ranked fourth or fifth and did not expect to win a medal.
"When I won a gold and two silvers it was a real shock," he said.
"Even so, I was still disappointed.
"I'd have won all three golds if I'd made my last lift in the clean and jerk.
"I told myself I'd definitely win all three in four years'time."
Stephen went into politics when he retired from weightlifting after the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, where he won three silvers.
He worked for Nauru's national bank before becoming an MP in 2003 and, four years later, President for a four-year term.
Stephen met President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, on one of his official visits to the US.
He spoke at the United Nations and international forums, negotiated foreign policy and aid and wrote on climate change for the New York Times.
"Sport gave me confidence to take on the big challenges," he said.
Weightlifting is still his great love.
He is President of the Oceania Weightlifting Federation and sits on the Board of the International Weightlifting Federation.
Top 10 Commonwealth Sport Moments
In the ten weeks leading to the Opening Ceremony of Gold Coast 2018 we published a countdown each week of the Top 10 Commonwealth Sport Moments. Click here to see them.