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The Jennifer Maakal Story

The tenth Olympic Games, Los Angeles, 1932

Fig.8. Click on image to enlarge

By 1932 the world was in the middle of an economic crisis. This was in later years referred to as the “ great depression. ”  It was therefore no big surprise that that less than half the number of athletes participated in Los Angeles than the number in Amsterdam four years earlier. (fig 8)

South Africa also only sent a small team of ten athletes. In the team there were two women, the simmer Jenny Maakal and the athlete Marjorie Clarke.

On the way to Los Angeles Jenny Maakal told her team mates that she was sorry that she was to participate. She explained to them that her family did not have money to sponsor her trip. Her mother took a bond on their house to raise money for her trip.

She said that while she was very excited at the time, she now realised that it was irresponsible for her to be on her way to Los Angeles. She was sure that her mother would lo se her house because of her.

Fig.10. Click on image to enlarge
Fig.9. Click on image to enlarge

At the Games the boxers Lawrie Stevens (fig 10) and Dave Carstens (fig 9) won Gold Medals. They then went back to Jenny and told her that both of them had lucrative contracts to become professional boxers. They were, though; prepared to postpone their professional careers to participate in a special fund raising tournament for her benefit.

They kept their word and when they were back in South Africa they did just that. This tournament raised enough money so that Jenny Makaal could repay her mother every penny she owed the bank.

In the meantime Jenny was entered for the 100 meters and 400 meters freestyle at the Games. In both items she reached the final and in the 400 meters she finished third for a bronze medal.

In the track and field events Marjorie Clarke participated in the 80 meter hurdles and the high jump. In both events she was up against probably the greatest woman athlete of the 20th century. Her performances were creditable. In the 80 meter hurdles she finished third for a bronze medal and in the high jump fifth.

Jenny Maakal and Marjorie Clarke did not only themselves, but also the women of South Africa proud.