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7th Jun, 2021, Alastair Aitken

With the Tokyo Olympics approaching, Alastair Aitken looks back on Ann Packer, who won gold and silver at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and her husband Robbie Brightwell, who took a relay silver at the same Games.

Ann Packer married Robbie Brightwell on 19 December 1964.  They now live at Congleton in Cheshire.  Let us look back over the years and realize what a fantastic sporting family they were.

Firstly, Robbie Brightwell was Captain of the British Athletics team at the Olympic Games of 1964 where, he took Britain from fourth on the anchor leg of the 4x400m to second at the finish, with a 44.8 split. Robbie was also the European 400m Champion in 1962, in Belgrade in 45.9.

About Ann Packer Charlie Elliott Editor of Athletics Arena magazine, said before the 1964 Olympics Games in his review: “A girl whose capacity to astonish is apparently inexhaustible” How right he was! She won silver in an impressive 52.2 British record in the 400m Final in Tokyo, just behind Betty Cuthbert of Australia, the 200 Olympic Champion of 1960, who ran 52.0 and, following that, she won gold in the 800 Final on 20 October. Then, in the family, there are sons Ian and David Brightwell who played for Manchester City in the early 1990’s and a useful 400m man Gary Brightwell, as the third of three sons.

Ann Elizabeth Packer, was born on the 8 March 1942 in Moulsford, and educated at Wallingford Grammar School and Greenwich University. She proved to be handy over the 200m, 400m and pentathlon. Robbie Brightwell was a teacher who went to Loughborough and Ann was a teacher when they were in Tokyo.

Except for a 2:05.3 800m earlier in 1964 her ability was more as a novice at the distance, not having a listed time for having done an 800m race before then. Robbie Brightwell’s comment to me in 1962 could in a way apply here. The main thing, he said, is you must first have some potential but it is not the athlete with the greatest potential who reaches the top. More often perhaps the athlete with the greatest perseverance. This is the thing that counts, you must never give in. Sometimes you have scrubber years, others will be good ones, but keep on racing, have faith in yourself and you will eventually come through. 

I did enjoy being in the stadium in Tokyo and seeing Ann Packer. in her races.  She qualified for the Semi-Finals by finishing fifth in Heat 1, which was won by Maryvonne Dupureur (France) in 2:04.5. Semi Final ‘A’ was won by Maryvonne Dupureur in 2:04.1 (New Olympic record). with Ann Smith 2:4.8 of GB qualifying for the Final in fourth. Semi. Final ‘B’ was won by Ann Marise Chamberlain (New Zealand) in 2:04.6 with Ann Packer qualifying for the Final in third in 2:06.0. 

The Final on the cinders was on the 20 October in cloudy weather; temperature 15.50; Humidity 85% Wind 1.60m (N).  Sin Kim Dan of North Korea (PRK) was said to have run a 1:58.0 but could not compete in the Olympics due to the suspension of her country by the IAAF.

In the Final Dupureur was the favourite with people thinking Chamberlain would be close with the Dutch athlete Gerarda Kraan and GB athletes Smith and Packer also thought to have an outside chance of a medal.

After the start Dupureur went straight to the front and. went through the bell in the lead in 58.6 with Zsuzsa Szabo (Hungary) and Antje Gliechfeld (Germany) together next then a group of runners which included Packer. Dupureur opened up a small lead in the third quarter of the race of about a 7 metres at 600m. Out of the group Ann Packer responded and using her 400m speed and she literally glided past Chamberlain at the start of the final straight and then took Dupereur before she got to the finishing line, about 5 or 6 meters clear.  The result: 1, Ann Packer (GB) 2:01.1 New World record; 2, Maryvonne Dupureur (France) 2:01.9 National record; 3, Ann Marise. Chamberlain (New Zealand) 2:02.8 National record; 4, Zsusza Nagy-Szabo (Hungary) 2:03.5 ,National record; 5,Antje Gleichfeld-Braasch (Germany) 2:03.9 National record; 6, Laine Erik (USSR) 2:05.1; 7, Gerarda Kraan (Netherlands) 2:05.8; and 8, Anne Smith GB 2:05.8.