Full Name: Janet Mary Simpson
Date of Birth: 2 September 1944
Born: Barnet, Hertfordshire. .
Coach: Denis Watts.
At only 14, Janet Simpson was a star athlete, winning her first English Schools title in the junior 150 yards event. It was the start of a successful career, where she made her mark on the international scene despite never achieving an individual gold medal. But she was only following in family footsteps because her mother Violet Webb (1915-99) had been a member of the British track and field 4 x 100m relay quartet which won Olympic bronze in St Louis in 1932. It meant a delicious piece of history when Simpson took her place on the podium in Tokyo in 1964 after also finishing third as part of the 4 x 100m team. It remains the only time a British mother and daughter have won athletics medals at the Olympics.
Having established herself with her first English Schools title in 1958, Simpson progressed to win the intermediate 150y in 1961 and 220y senior in 1962 and 1963 as well as the WAAA inters in 1961. Hair tied up, with just the odd strand flickering on her forehead, she ran with great authority and precision, showing a superb ability to move up to the 400m having established herself at the 200m. It was to bring her more than just Olympic success.
Not A Bad Place To Start
Her mother had long established herself as an athlete by the time Simpson was born, having set five British records at 80m hurdles to 11.7 in 1936. And her daughter made a superb impression when the Olympic Games in Tokyo became her first major Championship. She had finished second in the 200m in 23.9 as Edith McGuire, of the USA, soared around the bend to break the Olympic record with 23.0. Though they did not find themselves running head-to-head in the 4 x 100m relay, the race itself was another of those from these Games where a particular Polish athlete sparked major controversy long after the Games. Poland had won gold in 43.6, a world record, but they had that mark removed from the record books when in 1967 Ewa Klobukowska, who had run the fourth leg, failed a sex text. In the race itself, Simpson had run the first left, handing onto Mary Rand, Daphne Arden and Dorothy Arden as the British team clocked 44.0 to finish third behind the USA, who, anchored by McGuire, finished in 43.9.
By the next Olympics in Mexico in 1968, she had moved upto the 400m. It was her first serious year at the distance and she finished fourth in 52.57 in a classic final where her teammate Lillian Board, 52.12, was just pipped on the line to victory by Frenchwoman Colette Besson, who won in 52.03. It had been a tremendously successful year for Simpson, who in less than a month prior to the Games had been part of two world record relay teams. On August 24, at Crystal Palace, at the International Athletes Club meeting, Simpson ran the third leg in a 4 x 2000 event which saw the British team home in 1:33.8. The rest of the quartet were Maureen Tranter, Della James and Val Peat and then on September 14, again running the third leg, she joined Anita Neil, Maureen Tranter and Board to break the 4 x 110y world record with 45.0 in a pre-Olympic match against the Rest Of The World at Portsmouth.
Gold And World Records
Twelve months on, defeat for France this time and also two more world record races for Simpson. On June 22, the British team of Jenny Pawsey, Pauline Attwood, Simpson and Board broke the 4 x 400m mark with 3:37.6 at the Sward Trophy meeting at Crystal Palace before Rosemary Stirling, Pat Lowe, Simpson and Board took the time to 3:30.8 at the European Championships in Athens in one of the great relay races. It was there that France recorded the same time, but Britain were given the gold after Board had beaten Besson on the final lap, gaining a touch of revenge for her Olympic defeat. Simpson had run brilliantly in that relay, when she contributed a 52.1 third leg, gaining some 15 metres on the French runner. It was a big year and a big Championship for Simpson, who married Swiss sprinter Philippe Clerc, who won the European 200m title. It seemed her athletics career had ended then when she retired, but by the Olympics in Munich in 1972, she had overcome injury to return and was part of the 4 x 400m team which finished fifth.
1964: 7th 200m, 3rd 4x100m Olympics
1966: sf 100y, 8th 220y, 2nd 4x100y Commonwealth Games; sf 200m, 6th 4x100m Europeans
1968: 4th 400m, 7th 4x100m Olympics
1969: 7th 400m, 1st 4x100m Europeans
1972: ht 400m, 5th 4x100m Olympics
UK Internationals: 20 (1963-72)
Won WAAA 220y 1965-6, Inters 220y 1961.
100y 10.8 (1963), 100m 11.6 (1965), 200m 23.75 (1964), 220y 23.7 (1964), 400m 52.57A (1968)
Indoors: 60y 7.1 (1963), 60m 7.5 (1963), 600m 1:33.9 (1972)