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The 1964 Olympics - the women's story

1964 Olympics - Tokyo, Japan

The images in this post are all from vintage trading cards. The 1964 games were marked by several firsts: they were the first telecast, meaning they didn’t have to fly the film internationally before it was shown on TV, and they were the first to not use a cinder track. The Tokyo games were also the last Olympics to use the hand-held stopwatch as the official time (which is why the times below are in tenths and not hundreths). Women made up 13% of all competitors.

Two new sports for women were added: Volleyball (six-on-six with the Gold going to Japan) and the pentathlon (long jump, high jump, shot put, hurdles, and sprints).


The longest distance women could swim was the 400m freestyle.

Australian Dawn Fraser won her third straight Gold medal in the 100m freestyle. The US dominated swimming by winning Gold in six of the eight events offered to women.

Cathy Ferguson

Cathy Ferguson (pictured right) won the 100m freestyle in world record time of 1:07.7. ​(In 2016, Simone Manuel won the race in 52.7 seconds – 15 seconds faster in 52 years. ​

Donna de Varona

​​Donna de Varona (left) won the 400m IM (100m of each stroke) in world record time of 5:18.7. (American Katie Ledecky won this event in WR time in 2016 at 3:56.46 (1 minute and 22 seconds faster!)


Americans Lesley Bush won Gold in the 10m platform.


​Larisa Latynina (Soviet gymnast from1960’s Olympics) continued her dominance by winning two gold, a silver, and a bronze. She held the record for the most Olympic medals until Michael Phelps.

Another outstanding gymnast was Věra Čáslavská (Czechoslovakian, pictured). She won three Gold medals. Gymnastics winners were dominated by the Soviets and the Czechs.

Ann Packer

Track and Field ​​

This was the second time the 800m run was offered to women since 1928 and Ann Packer (Britain, right) won the race in the same fashion as Kinue Hitomi (Japan) who came in second in 1928 - they both had never competed in the length before. The 800m was the longest distance that women could run in the '64 Olympics.

The Pentathlon was won by Irena Press (Soviet Union), while her sister, Tamera Press, won the shot put. The Press sisters' winnings fell under the ugly whispers of speculation for being hermaphordites (some even thought they were men). The suspicions grew louder when they suddenly stopped competing in 1966, the year that sex texting was enacted.

The 200m was won by American Edith McGuire (pictured). McGuire also won two Silver medals: one in the 100m dash and one in 400m relay. She ended her running career in 1965 and became a teacher. Wyomia Tyus won Gold in the 100m dash.

Edith McGuire

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