Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- Athletics coach, Olympian, Sports Administrator and Track and Field Athlete
- Alternative Names
- Mathews-Willard, Marlene (former married name)
Described as 'one of our greatest and unluckiest' athletes, Marlene Mathews set a world record of 10.3 seconds for the 100 yard sprint in 1958. Her best times for the 100 metres and 200 metres, set over forty years ago, would have won both titles at the 2005 Australian Athletics Championships were they repeated.
Having missed selection for the 1952 Olympic Games due to a leg injury, Mathews was selected for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Canada, only to be forced to withdraw from sprint events due to injury once again. Two years later, she was able to compete at the Olympic Games in Melbourne and won bronze in the 100 metres and 200 metres behind Australia's Betty Cuthbert and Germany's Christa Stubnick - though many expected her to win. Disappointingly, Mathews was not selected for the 4x100m relay team that year. The team, comprising Shirley Strickland, Norma Croker, Fleur Mellor and Betty Cuthbert, won gold. At a post-Olympics meeting, Mathews was part of a relay team that broke world records for both the 4x220 yards and 4x200 metres.
In 1957, Mathews set the inaugural world record times for the 440 yards and 400 metres. The following year she set her world record of 10.3 seconds for the 100 yards sprint (breaking the 10.4 second record held jointly by Betty Cuthbert and Marjorie Jackson) and of 23.4 seconds for the 220 yards (breaking Cuthbert's 23.5 second record). She is reputed to have run a 'wind-assisted 10.1 seconds' in the 100 yards at the Australian titles. Mathews went on to win the 100 yards and 220 yards at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Wales in 1958. She ran in the relay team that won silver in the 4x110 yards relay. After making the semi-finals in the 100 metres at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960, Mathews retired from competition and took up an administrative role. She was an Assistant Manager of the Australian Olympic Team at the Olympics in Munich in 1972.
Marlene Mathews became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1979 for her services to athletics, and an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1999. A Trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground, she is recognised in its Walk of Honour. Mathews was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.