As Yvette Williams stumbled her way through the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, there was anxiety on both sides of the world. Williams was a heavy favorite to win gold and become New Zealand's first female gold medalist heading into the Games. Yvette Williams won gold in the women's long jump at the 1952 Olympic Games. She became only the second woman after Dora Wilson (who also held the title before Williams) to win multiple gold medals at one event - the long jump.
Williams was born on January 4, 1931 in Auckland, New Zealand to John Williams, a carpenter, and his wife Mary Ann, a housewife. She had two siblings: a brother named John and a sister named Christine. When she was five years old, her family moved to Wellington where she lived until she went to high school. There she became interested in sports - especially track and field events - and turned down an offer from Woodstock College to study economics instead. She went on to graduate from Victoria University with a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1952. That same year, she married David Anderson-Minshall who worked as a bank clerk. He was 26 years old while she was only 20 at the time. They had one son together named John who was born in 1953.
After marrying David Minshall, Yvette Williams decided to move to England so he could pursue a career in medicine. However, he died from cancer when he was only 36 years old.
Women's long jump at the 1952 Summer Olympics Medals/Yvette Williams: gold, silver, and bronze.
In 1952, the Women's Long Jump was added to the Olympic program. Yvette Williams became the first woman to win three consecutive medals in an individual event when she took home the gold, silver, and bronze medals. Her final mark of 7.92 meters is still the current British record.
Williams went on to compete at four more Olympics, winning two more medals (a silver in 1956 and a bronze in 1960). Her teammate Dora Ratjen won five medals in the long jump (three silvers and two bronzes).
Besides being one of only eight women to have won medals in three or more events at the same Games, Yvette Williams was also the first female athlete to be given a prize money award. She received £1,000 ($7,500) for her three-year career-long medal streak.
She retired from competition in 1961 at the age of 29 after breaking her left foot during training.
The long leap Williams won gold in the long jump at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, setting a new Olympic record of 6.24 m and falling 1 cm shy of Fanny Blankers-world Koen's mark established in 1943. Williams also finished sixth in the shot put and tenth in the discus throw in Helsinki. The medal was the first ever won by an African American woman in an Olympic sport.
Williams began competing in athletics when she was only 12 years old. She jumped for Martin County High School in Martin, Massachusetts, and became one of the first girls to be allowed into the boys' school's gymnasium to practice. She went on to become one of the top long jumpers in the country while attending Boston University. In 1949, she set a world record of 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) in the long jump at a meet in Providence, Rhode Island. Two years later, at the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand, she won the gold medal in the long jump with a mark of 7 ft 0 in (2.32 m). At the age of 20, Williams made her third trip to the Olympics: she came in fifth in the long jump at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
After retiring from competitions, Williams went on to have a successful career as a coach. She has been credited with helping many young athletes reach the highest levels of their sports. One of her most notable students is Carl Lewis, who competed in four Olympics from 1984 to 2004.