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Glynis Nunn-Cearns

GLYNIS NUNN-CEARNS OAM (nee SAUNDERS) (4 Dec 1960 – )  Glynis Nunn-Cearns

Glynis Saunders was born in Toowoomba, Queensland and began athletics at age nine.

By 1975 she was the Queensland State Secondary Schools champion in six events.  A year on in Melbourne Glynis won the national junior long jump title with 5.86m and was second in the pentathlon with 3758 points.

The junior long jump crown was defended in Sydney in 1977 with a distance of 5.98m. A first international vest followed, when Glynis was selected to represent Australia in a match against New Zealand in which she won the pentathlon with 4180 points.

Because of her versatility she was also selected as a travelling reserve for the first IAAF World Cup in Dusseldorf, Germany. At just 17 years of age, Glynis was eventually called upon to run the hurdles at the landmark meet.

The following year brought the good with the bad. At the Nationals in Brisbane, which also served as selection trials, she won the open pentathlon with 3968 points as well as the junior hurdles and long jump. As a result, Glynis was selected for the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada but injury ruined her chances and forced her withdrawal from the pentathlon after two events. 

The injury, a stress fracture, kept her out of competition for a year but enabled her to concentrate on her studies towards becoming a physical education teacher.

Returning to competition in 1980, Glynis regained her national pentathlon title in Sydney with a score of 4251 and also finished third in the hurdles in 13.66  and fourth in the long jump with 6.16m.

In 1981 Australia adopted the heptathlon to replace the pentathlon and Glynis won the inaugural national title in Adelaide with 5554 points, although both her hurdles (14.45) and long jump (5.95m) appeared to have fallen away, She finished sixth in both individual events.

She was now being coached by John Daly, senior lecturer at the South Australian College of Education and coach to the 1976 and 1980 Olympic teams.

Glynis represented Australia in the 1981 Pacific Conference Games in Christchurch, New Zealand and finished second in the pentathlon with 4,290 pts behind local Karen Page. 

In 1982 Glynis married fellow combined-eventer Chris Nunn and moved permanently to South Australia where she also taught. Retaining her national heptathlon title with 5843 points, she added the 100 metres hurdles title in 13.31 and was second in the long jump with 6.30m.

Selection for the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane in October came after the trials there later in the year. Husband Chris also made the team in the decathlon.

At the Games, in a great battle with Englishwoman Judy Livermore, Glynis overhauled the pre-event favourite on the second day to take gold in the heptathlon with 6282 pts, before finishing sixth in the hurdles in 13.31 and seventh in the long jump with 6.38m. 

At the 1983 Nationals in Melbourne, she contested only the hurdles and retained her title in 13.91, but was still selected for the first IAAF World Championships in Helsinki, Finland where she finished seventh in the heptathlon with 6195 behind the East German clean sweep led by Ramona Neubert with 6714 pts. 

The 1984 Nationals for the combined events were held in Canberra and Glynis won easily with 6273 pts. At the main Nationals in Melbourne she again retained her hurdles title in 13.81 and was third in the long jump with 6.38m. She was selected for all three events for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, which would become the scene of her greatest triumph. 

Although the Eastern Bloc countries led by the Soviet Union boycotted these Games in retaliation for the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics, there were still 23 athletes in the heptathlon with rising US star Jackie Joyner and West German Sabine Everts the clear favorites.

Glynis got off to a great start with a personal best 13.02 in the hurdles but soon dropped behind Joyner and was fourth after day one. A long jump of 6.66m put Glynis back in contention but her best attempt in the javelin of 35.58m left her 31 points behind Joyner.

The calculation was simple – the Aussie girl needed to beat Joyner by 2.25 in the 800 metres to win the gold. In a great battle in which Joyner clung on almost to the end, Glynis ran another magnificent personal best of  2.10.57 to win by just five points.

It did not end there. Glynis had a great Games, also finishing fifth in the hurdles in 13.20 and seventh in the long jump with 6.53m.

Glynis was named both Australian Sportswoman and Australian Sportsperson of the Year for 1984. Early the following year, she was awarded the Medal of the order of Australia the New Year’s Honours List. 

Glynis retired from the combined events after Los Angeles but continued her athletic career. She retained her hurdles title at the 1985 Nationals in Canberra in 13.53, the only event she contested. She was selected for the event for Oceania for the 1985 World Cup, also in Canberra and finished fifth in 13.25.

A fifth straight national hurdles title came in Adelaide in 1985 in 13.48 and Glynis was off to her third Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sadly these Games were also severely affected by another boycott, leaving very few countries competing but Glynis still had a strong line up to contend with in the hurdles and finished a good third in 13.44 behind England’s Sally Gunnell.

She then started serious training for the 400 metres hurdles and by early 1987 had lowered her time to 58.40. However injuries intervened and Glynis went to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 as a TV commentator. 

Re-married, Glynis made a successful comeback in late 1989 and at the Commonwealth Games Trials in Sydney made another Commonwealth Games team, this time to Auckland where she finished fifth in the 100 metres hurdles in 13.47. 

Retirement from competitive athletics followed although she made a short-lived comeback in mid 1994 at the 400 metres hurdles.

Glynis quickly moved into coaching and administration, filling key roles with the Australian Track and Field Coaches Association.  She was a member of the Management and Construction Committee that built the Sports Super Centre at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast and was soon a team coach on national teams, including to the World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile. 

Glynis continues to coach and has served as a national selector and on a range of national committees. She is a Life Member of Athletics Australia and was elected to the IAAF Women’s Committee in 2003.


Paul Jenes

AA Statistician

President ATFS 

Acknowledgements: Paul Jenes - “Fields of Green, Lanes of Gold”; Reet & Max Howell - “Aussie Gold, The Story of Australia at the Olympics”; Mark Butler – “9th IAAF World Cup in Athletics”; Mark Butler - “IAAF Statistics Handbook Berlin 2009”; Harry Gordon - “Australia and the Olympic Games”; Paul Jenes & Peter Hamilton, “Australian Athletics Results”

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