Full Name: Rosemary Olivia Stirling
Date of Birth: 11 December 1947
Born: Timaru, New Zealand.
Club: Wolverhampton & Bilston.
Coach: Ron Harris.
A superbly versatile athlete, who was part of five world record relay teams at four different distances, and who enjoyed her greatest individual moment when representing Scotland at the British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970, she won the 800 in the closest finish in the event’s history. Having learned about the sport while living in Whatakane, New Zealand, in the early 1960s, Stirling made her mark when she moved to England.
Toeing The Line
In 1964, at the age of 16, Stirling broke her toe at the English Schools Championship and had to wait another two years to make an impression, let alone an international breakthrough. But she did in style, when she won the Scottish 440y title for the first time, followed by a 440y pb of 54.5 at the WAAAs and 54.4 for fourth place at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Kingston, Jamaica. She finished fourth in the 880y event at the Commonwealths aswell, making dramatic inroads into her personal best, arriving in Jamaica with 2:09.6 but leaving with 2:05.4 from the final having run 2:07.6 in her heat.
What a final the 800m proved at the British Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970, when all three women could hardly be separated. As the line approached, Stirling was on the outside, Pat Lowe, of England was in the centre, with Cheryl Peasley, of Australia, to her left, as the three battled for glory.Stirling, ironically looking the slightly more composed compared to the pain etched across the faces of the other two, won just, in 2:06.24, from Lowe in 2:06.27, with Peasley third in 2:06.33. It was a thrilling glory.
While some are rarely-run events, when an athlete is chasing the clock, the significance does not matter. They are there to make history, never mind that it might not be the distance they normally run. That was the case for Stirling when in Budapest in 1967, in an international match with Hungary, she was part of the British team which broke the 3 x 880y world record, running first to hand over to Pat Lowe before Pam Piercy brought them home in 6:25.2. The next month the same trio ran 6:20.0 at London’s White City Stadium to break the 3 x 800m record before Stirling was first again in the famous 4 x 400m defeat of France at the European Championships in Athens in 1969. She ran 54.2 for her leg which ended with Lillian Board gaining revenge on Colette Besson, who had beaten her by a whisker in the 400m at the Olympic Games in Mexico the previous year. Lowe and Janet Simpson made up the team which ran 3:30.8, the same time clocked by France, though Britain had narrowly edged them out on the line.
Next world record for Stirling was the 4 x 800m in Edinburgh in 1970 when she was part of the quartet of Sheila Carey, Lowe and Board which ran 8:27.0. A landmark occasion for every wrong reason because before the year was out, Board had died. By September of 1970, Board was too ill to run but at Crystal Palace, the British team improved the record to 8:25.0 with Georgena Craig replacing the tragically ill star.
Stirling made it to the Olympic 800m final in Munich in 1972, where she finished seventh in 2:00.15 as West Germany’s Hildegard Falck won gold in an Olympic record of 1:58.6. But Stirling’s time broke Ann Packer’s British best of 2:01.1 which had stood for eight years. Stirling became Mrs Wright when she married Trevor Wright, AAA 10 miles champion in 1970 and 1971 and European marathon silver medallist in 1971.
1966: 4th 440y & 880y Commonwealth Games; sf 400m Europeans
1967: 5th 800m European Indoors
1968: 17th International CC
1969: 3rd 400m European Indoors; 8th 400m, 1st 4x400m Europeans
1970: ht 800m Europeans Indoors, 4th 400m, 3rd 4x400m European Cup, 1st 800m Commonwealth Games
1971: 3rd 800m, 4th 4x400m Europeans
1972: ht 800m European Indoors, 27th International CC, 7th 800m, 5th 4x400m Olympics
1973: 5th 800m, 4th 4x400m European Cup
1974: sf 800m, 4th 4x400m Commonwealth Games; 4th 800m European Indoors, sf 800m Europeans
UK Internationals: 38 (1966-75)
Won WAAA Indoor 440y 1967, 400m 1969, 800m 1970-1, 1974; Scottish 440y 1966-8, 880y/800m 1967, 1970-1
220y 24.8 (1966), 400m 53.24 (1971), 600m 1:31.4 (1974), 800m 2:00.15 (1972), 1500m 4:19.84 (1975), 1M 4:42.4 (1975), 3000m 9:48.0 (1978)
Indoors: 400m 54.8 (1969), 600m 1:32.0 (1968), 800m 2:05.19 (1974)
(Picture taken from www.sporting-heros.net )