05 January 2018

Golden girls welcome Queens Baton to SCG

Australian track legend Marlene Mathews and current Australian athlete Jessica Thornton have welcomed the 2018 Commonwealth Games' Queens Baton to celebrate 80 years since the 1938 Empire Games were held at Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust precinct.

The 1938 British Empire Games were conducted in Sydney between February 5 and 12, marking the 150th anniversary of British settlement in Australia. 

An estimated 40,000 spectators attended the Opening Ceremony at the SCG featuring 600 athletes from 15 countries participating in eight sports including track and field, swimming, diving, rowing, boxing, cycling, lawn bowls and wrestling.

The SCG played host to the track and field events, and featured a grass track which the Canadian team described as the “finest grass track in the world”.

The 100 yards and 120 yards hurdles track ran east/west commencing at the present O’Reilly Stand finishing at the Members Pavilion in a bid to overcome the drainage slope of the ground which ran downwards north to south. 

Marlene Mathews represented Australia from 1950 to 1961 competing at two Olympic Games, two British Empire Games (Commonwealth Games), and a Centenary Games.  Mathews won two gold medals and one silver at the 1958 Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) in Cardiff, and won two bronze medals at the 1956 Olympic Games.

Mathews first hit the headlines as a 16-year-old in 1951, winning the women’s open sprint double at the NSW Athletics Championships at the Sydney Sports Ground. She went on to set five world records at the Sydney Sports Ground throughout her career and was most recently immortalised alongside her good friend and competitor Betty Cuthbert as a bronze statue within the SCGT precinct.

Since retirement, Mathews has held various positions with the Australian Olympic Team, Australian Track and Field Coaches Association, the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust and the NSW Amateur Athletics Association.

Jessica Thornton is a 19-year-old athlete who has represented Australia at Junior and Open levels. 

Thornton is currently in the Athletics Australia 400m relay squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held on Queensland's Gold Coast, and has a ‘B’ qualifier for the individual 200m.

Thornton won gold in the 400m at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and was selected as flag bearer for the closing ceremony.

In 2016, she competed in the Olympic Games in Rio as the lead runner in Australia’s 4x400m relay in both the heat and final. She also competed at the 2016 World Junior Athletic Championships.

Thornton commenced her athletic career as a 7-year-old at Randwick/Botany Athletics Club competing at the NSW All Schools Championships through her secondary years winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m sprints four years running. She is also a five-time National Surf Lifesaving Beach Sprint Champion (2 x U15, 2 x U17 and 1 x Open).

The GC2018 Relay is the longest and most accessible in history, travelling through the entire Commonwealth for 388 days and 230,000km.

The Queen’s Baton has been en route for 288 days passing through thousands of hands in Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania building excitement for this year’s Games.

In Australia, the Queen’s Baton will traverse 40,000km, traversing every state and territory for 100 days engaging approximately 3800 baton bearers.

The Queen’s Baton arrives on the Gold Coast for the XXI Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony on April 4, 2018, where HRH The Prince of Wales will remove Her Majesty’s message from the Baton and read it aloud to declare the Games open.