Jennifer Ann Smart, b. Surbiton, London, 19 February 1943. Olympic 100 metres finalist at the age of 17.
Jenny Smart was an extremely talented teenage sprinter who became one of the youngest ever sprinters to represent Great Britain in Olympic competition when taking part at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome at the age of 17. She placed a remarkable 6th in the final of the 100 metres, but her international career was over before she reached 19 years of age. She remains the only Scotswoman to compete in the final of the Olympic Games 100 metres.
As an Intermediate athlete, the equivalent of today’s Under-17 age-group, Jennifer Smart of Spartan Ladies AC in the south of England made a big impression in the 1959 season, recording bests of 11.0 seconds for 100 yards and 24.9 for 220 yards. Both times were within 0.1 of the British age-group bests at the time. In 1960, she improved to 10.7 at the Southern Championships in Brighton in June and then ran 11.7 for 100 metres at the WAAA Championships for 2nd place, sharing the same time as the winner, Dorothy Hyman. More significantly, both athletes bettered the Olympic qualifying standard of 11.8. The same two athletes ran neck-and-neck over 220 yards as well, Hyman winning in 24.0 with Smart sharing the same time, these two 0.7 ahead of the field.
These performances saw Jennifer gain her international debut against Italy at Brighton one week later, running the 100 metres and 4 x 100 metres relay at the tender age of 17 years and 172 days. She ran to form with an 11.9 run in 3rd place, again taking the same time as Hyman in 2nd. A further international against France in London followed, before she was selected for the Great Britain team for the 1960 Olympic Games, the baby of the British women’s team.
The Rome Olympics, where she was selected for all three sprint events, was both the biggest and toughest event that the teenage sprinter had contested. Contesting the 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay as well, the 100 metres had three rounds to reach the final. Jennifer showed no nerves progressing through round one, winning her heat in 11.9 (automatic timing gave 12.04). In the other heats, the great American sprinter Wilma Rudolph set a Games record of 11.5 (11.65). Smart’s second round saw her paired with two of the fastest girls in the world, Catherine Capdevielle of France and Italy’s Giuseppina Leone, both of whom had run 11.4 prior to the Games. The heat was much slower, Leone taking it in 12.11 from Capdevielle in 12.16, with Smart excelling to finish just a hundredth of a second down to qualify for the semi-finals. In the hand timed results that were official at the time, all 3 athletes were given 12.0.
The semi-finals saw her line up in heat 1 where the field was blown away by Wilma Rudolph’s world record-equalling win in 11.3 (11.41) with Smart continuing her astonishing season by placing third in 11.8 (11.89) to reach the final. At that time, only six athletes contested the final making it a remarkable achievement just two months after her first international competition. The final itself had an outstanding field, yet Rudolph again showed her class, winning in a wind-assisted 11.0 (11.18) from Britain’s Dorothy Hyman 11.3 (11.43) and Italy’s Leone 11.3 (11.48). The 17-year-old Smart was 6th but in a career best run of 11.6 (11.72).
In the 200 metres, her weaker event, Smart made it through round one as a fastest loser in 24.0 (24.12), 3rd in her heat behind eventual winner Wilma Rudolph’s world record equalling 23.2 (23.30). The semi-final was a race too far though, bowing out in 24.6 (24.74), 5th behind Rudolph’s 23.7 (23.79). With Hyman and Smart, two 100 metres finalists in the team, hopes were high for the relay squad, but the squad fell apart in the final. Two disastrous baton changes were each followed by the waving of a red flag and the team was disqualified. The U.S.A. won the final, allowing Wilma Rudolph her third gold medal of the Games.
1961 saw Smart win the WAAA 100 and 220 yards championship titles in 10.7 and 24.0, the latter won by a remarkable 0.9 seconds. She was a regular in the British international team, with matches against the USA, Hungary, West Germany, Poland and Russia, with the international at Oberhausen against West Germany in September producing her career best times of 11.5 for 100 metres and 23.6 for 200. Her 100 metres time equalled Dorothy Hyman's British record and her 200 metres time took o.1 off Hyman's record. In her solitary appearance in Scotland at the Edinburgh Highland Games in 1961, she set Scottish national and all-comers' records of 10.9 and 24.5 with a double victory in the 100 and 220.
Her stature in British athletics at that time was demonstrated by being awarded the Lord Hawke Trophy by the WAAA as Best Woman Athlete of 1961.
And then … well, not a lot really as she faded badly from her early years of sprinting excellence. No competition in 1962, the odd race in 1963, including failure to reach the WAAA finals, and an unsuccessful attempt at the quarter-mile in 1964, ranking joint 9th in the U.K. with 57.0 seconds.
|70 yards||7.5||Bournemouth, England||1 April 1961|
|100 yards||10.7||Brighton, England||19 June 1960|
|100 metres||11.5||Oberhausen, Germany||1 September 1961|
|200 metres||23.6||Oberhausen, Germany||1 September 1961|
|220 yards||24.0||White City, London, England||2 July 1960|
|440 yards||57.0||Chiswick, England||6 June 1964|
|880 yards||2:23.3||Norbiton, England||25 April 1964|
|GOLD MEDALS (2)|
|100 yards||10.7||White City, London||1961|
|220 yards||24.0||White City, London||1961|
|SILVER MEDALS (2)|
|100 yards||11.7||Dortmund, Germany||1960|
|220 yards||24.0||White City, London||1960|
|GOLD MEDALS (1)|
|440 yards||58.4||Hampden Park, Glasgow||1961|
|1960||100 metres||1, heat 4||11.9 (12.04)||Rome (ITA)|
|3, qf 3||12.0 (12.17)||Rome (ITA)|
|3, sf1||11.8 (11.89)||Rome (ITA)|
|6, final||11.6w (11.72)||Rome (ITA)|
|200 metres||3, heat 6||24.0 (24.16)||Rome (ITA)|
|5, sf1||24.6 (24.74)||Rome (ITA)|
|4 x 100 metres||1, heat 1||45.8 (45.92)||Rome (ITA)|
|GREAT BRITAIN & NORTHERN IRELAND INTERNATIONAL APPEARANCES (7)|
|4 x 100 metres||-||DQ|
|4 x 100 metres||1||45.6|
|1960||Olympic Games||100 metres||6||11.6 (11.72)|
|200 metres||5 sf||24.6 (24.74)|
|4 x 100 metres||-||DNF|
|4 x 110 yards||2||46.3|
|4 x 100 metres||1||45.9|
|1961||West Germany||100 metres||2||11.5|
|4 x 100 metres||2||45.6|
|4 x 100 metres||1||45.5|
|100 metres||11.5||Oberhausen, Germany||1 Sept 1961||2 October 1963|
|200 metres||23.6||Oberhausen, Germany||1 Sept 1961||4 August 1962|
|SCOTTISH NATIONAL RECORDS|
|100 yards||10.9||Murrayfield, Edinburgh||19 August 1961||metric|
|220 yards||24.5||Murrayfield, Edinburgh||19 August 1961||metric|
|SCOTTISH ALL-COMERS' RECORDS|
|100 yards||10.9||Murrayfield, Edinburgh||19 August 1961||3 October 1962|
|220 yards||24.5||Murrayfield, Edinburgh||19 August 1961||metric|