1928 USA Olympian Found

(Florence is pictured far left)

The week after we returned home from the Sydney Olympics, the woman whom we thought was the sole survivor of the infamous 800 metres at the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928 died (click here for more about Edith Robinson). For those unfamiliar with the research featured in ‘A Proper Spectacle’, we tell the story of this important race which led to women’s middle distance running being banned from the Olympics until 1960! Press reports of the race claimed

Women athletes collapse
Fierce strain of Olympic Race
Sobbing Girls


The race was described as ‘not a pretty sight.’ We had read a lot about this event, but no-one had tracked down the women who had actually competed in the race to find out what they thought about the fuss. During the three year search leading up to the publication of ‘A Proper Spectacle’ we managed to find two competitors whose memories are included in our book.  One, Wilhelmina Duchateau of Holland died some years ago.  When dear Edith died, we thought that was it. The last one had gone. All the other Olympic Committees said their competitors in the race had died - including the United States Olympic Committee.

On October 6th 2000, we received an email from the USA from Joan Pelland saying that her mother-in-law had competed for the US in the 1928 Olympics  and that they would be most interested in our book.  When, some ten days later, Joan emailed us again to say that there was a photo of her mother-in-law, Florence McDonald, in our book, we were astonished.  Not only that, but Florence was the very modern looking athlete at the start of the FINAL of the 800 metres of Amsterdam 1928!  Steph and I talked about it and decided that Edith must have got to the Pearly Gates and had a word with St Peter to ‘send’ Florence to us.

On Friday August 3rd 2001, we travelled to the USA and interviewed and filmed Florence with the help of her son John Campbell, Joan and the residential home where 91 year old Florence now abides.  What a character she is - and she still remembers her trip to Europe most fondly.  So what does she say about the race? Well, we’re going to hold on to that till someone out there reads this and gives us the cash to get our documentary edited together.  We now have footage of five wonderful pre World War II Olympians on widescreen DVC Pro and we know where all the archive footage is. We’d like to film more of these pioneers.  How about it?  Anyone out there in the US want to know more about Florence?  Help us out. Contact the United States Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee and anyone else you can think of and tell them one of the great women pioneers who took part in one of the most important events in women’s sporting history is still alive and you want to know what she has to say!

Anita, August 21st 2001

Anita (left) and Steph (right) with John Campbell and Florence