Decima Norman

Clara Decima Hamilton (1909-1983), athlete, was born on 9 September 1909 at Tammin, a wheat belt town in Western Australia, adopted child of Elizabeth and Francis Norman. She was noted for her athletic and track skills while a schoolgirl at Perth College and later, while working as a private secretary, as a member of Perth hockey and surf clubs.

She was a foundation member of the Western Australian Women's Amateur Athletic Association, formed in 1936 to enable women to enter competition games as members of a registered club. The requisite two clubs, 'Surf' and 'Perth', were formed from a small membership of some 30 women, Decima being captain of Surf. There are no records of this early association, said to have been founded to enable Decima to enter international competitions. Footballer Frank Preston was coach and manager. The Association lapsed during the war but was reformed in l946 and amalgamated with the male section to form the Athletic Association of Western Australia in 1978.

Decima became famous at the 1938 Empire (now Commonwealth) Games, held in Sydney with 15 countries and 464 competitors taking part. The Association had struggled to raise funds for travel, as there was no official financial support. Decima, at the late age of 29, won five gold medals: 100 yards, 220 yards, broad (long) jump and as a team member in the 440 and 660 yard medley relays.

She moved to Sydney to train and, at the state championships in 1939, set an Australian record for the 90 yards hurdles and won the broad jump. There were hopes for victories in the 1940 Olympics, but the war brought her athletics career to an untimely end. She retained her interests in women's sport through advice, financial assistance and fund raising. An astute business woman, Decima had interests in a restaurant and night club while continuing a secretarial career. While in Sydney she married Eric Hamilton, a former New Zealand Rugby Union footballer, and after many years the couple retired to Albany, Western Australia. There were no children.

In 1982 Decima was appointed official custodian of the Royal Commonwealth Games baton, and was flown from Albany to England to accept it from the Queen. She was awarded MBE in the 1982 New Year Honours. On 29 August 1983 she died of cancer. Fellow athlete Shirley de la Hunty (Strickland) said of Decima Norman: 'She was a brilliant athlete with great speed, power and determination and a natural talent that was largely undeveloped, as was shown by her winning the long jump without having trained for it'. 'Golden Girl of the West', she was admitted to the 'Hall of Champions' in 1986, the year after the inauguration of the award by the Western Australian Institute of Sport.

Prue Joske