Olympian reveals deadly diagnosis that rocked her world


OLYMPIC gold medallist Glynis Nunn has been inducted as a Queensland sporting legend just 10 months after being stricken by a life-threatening lung condition.

Rarely has there been a more worthy admission to the QSport Hall of Fame Legends than Nunn, whose victory in the heptathlon in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics remains one of the most extraordinary of Australia's 153 Olympic gold medals.

As well as winning Australia's first Olympic track and field gold for 16 years following her gold medal at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games, Nunn placed fifth in the 100m hurdles and seventh in the long jump in LA.

Nunn, now executive director of the Gold Coast Academy of Sport, admitted she shed a tear when told by QSport chief executive Peter Cummiskey she would be inducted as a legend of Queensland sport.


Olympic gold medallist Glynis Nunn is now based on the Gold Coast where she coaches athletics. Picture: Peter Wallis
Olympic gold medallist Glynis Nunn is now based on the Gold Coast where she coaches athletics. Picture: Peter Wallis


The hot-favourite she pipped for Olympic gold in LA, home nation superstar Jackie Joyner, won the heptathlon at the next two Olympics and was ranked by Sports Illustrated magazine as the greatest female athlete of the 20th century.

"I think I was the only person who did beat her in that event,'' said Nunn, Australia's sole multi-discipline gold medallist.

"Some years later she came out to Australia for an indoor meet held eight years later she looked at me and said; 'you are my worst nightmare'. She meant it in a nice way but she said she wanted to win consecutive gold medals (which she eventually did at the next two Olympics).''

Speaking at the QSport Hall of Fame awards in Brisbane on Tuesday night where she was accompanied by her parents, Nunn revealed she had been this year diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening Pulmonary Embolism with large clots in both lungs after feeling a shortness of breath while digging a ditch on her property in the Gold Coast hinterland.

"I went to a specialist in Brisbane who looked at my scans and said; 'I don't know how I am talking to you'," said Nunn, who joins fellow Olympian Cathy Freeman, who she once inspired, in the 20-persons Legends club.

"Because I was fit and my history of athletics and strong heart and lungs helped me.

"It was a shock to the system. I now tell people if you are not well make sure to get checked. I have some heart issues but hey, I'm still here and my daughter got married six weeks ago. I have and had a lot to live for. I was one of the lucky ones but I will be on blood thinners for life.''

Powered by Pavlova breakfasts and nicknamed Wally because she would occasionally trip over, her shock victory over Joyner was one for the ages.


Nunn competing in long jump during the 1984 Olympic Games.
Nunn competing in long jump during the 1984 Olympic Games.


And after winning the gold medal.
And after winning the gold medal.


It came down to the final moments of the seven event sport - the 800m - in which Nunn had to beat Joyner by around 2.5 seconds and just got there after a 20 minute wait for the decision.

She could not have triumphed in a more intimidating setting with American icon Carl Lewis ensuring the stands were packed and pumped as he won the 100m and Joyner's brother Al rushing to the edge of the track to support his sister between his commitments in the triple jump.

"It was a really great crowd … I felt as if I was running at the bottom of a tea cup as everything was echoing.

"At the end of the race I spoke to Jackie and she said 'what do you think?' and I told her I thought she had won.''

Toowoomba raised Nunn said at age 10 she set goals of being a physical education teacher and representing Australia and was thrilled to achieve both.

"There were 10 kids in my class - two girls and eight boys - so I was brought up as one of the guys and I loved competition.''

At the end of the American telecast of Nunn's victory the cameras panned to nearby Disneyland, where Nunn visited several days later, reinforcing the vibe that dreams actually do come true.

The function also inducted Barry Dancer (hockey), the late Roy Fowler (Paralympics), Robbie McEwan (cycling), Dick Marks (rugby), Pam O'Neill (racing) and Brooke Wilkins (softball) into the QSport Hall of Fame.

Originally published as Olympian reveals deadly diagnosis that rocked her world