Marise Chamberlain wins bronze in Tokyo
Chamberlain said she was incredibly nervous throughout her time in Tokyo.
“Once the heats began I felt a bit better. I finished second, just behind the Frenchwoman, Dupureur, and we qualified easily. In the semi-final I ran very well. Dr Grigor, our team doctor, let me ring Valdy [Briedis] back in Christchurch each night as a reward for running so well. Talking to Valdy was reassuring. But even so I had a terrible night before the final. I must have run that race 20 times in my head! I wouldn‘t be surprised if I never had a moment of sleep all night.
“I felt really bad in the warm-up before the final. I’d never felt so weak. The more people said ‘Good luck’, the weaker I felt. On the starting line I was in lane seven, between the two Brits, Ann Packer and Anne Smith All their supporters were just across the track cheering for them. It was very intimidating.
“When the race began I found myself near the back and then the German, Antje Gleichfeld, elbowed me really hard. I almost fell off the track, and would have, but for a pair of hands behind me catching me and pushing me back. I think it was Ann Packer. I didn’t know Gleichfeld was known for those sorts of tactics. I’d never been in that sort of race before.
“I ran most of the race in a bit of a dream. With 200 metres to go I was two lanes wide. Then, through my trance-like state, I could hear a chant of
‘black, black, black’. It was the Japanese cheering for me. That jolted me.
“I decided to do something about my position, but I made a very big mistake. I ran three wide around the bend. I went through the field, but covered a lot of extra ground.
“What I didn’t know was that Ann Packer had pinpointed me as the likely winner and was determined to follow me throughout the race. Sure enough, when I went, she followed and I took her right through into the final straight.
At that stage Dupureur was a couple of metres ahead, and I couldn’t close that gap.
“Then Ann went past and there was nothing I could do about that. So it finished Packer, Dupureur, Chamberlain. Because they used my second name, Ann, on the scoreboard, we were all Anns.” (Dupureur’s first name was Maryvonne, but it was anglicised as Anne.)
“I could never describe how happy I felt afterwards. I wanted so much to be able to stand on that dais at an Olympics. When I stepped up, I thought about all those years of sweat and grime and dirt, the terrible conditions, my parents holding meals for me for all those years, all the help I’d got from so many people, Valdy. I burst into tears, and cried and cried.