Two-time Olympian and former British 100m record-holder was one of Britain’s finest female sprinters in the late 1960s and early 1970s
Della Pascoe, who competed in the sprints at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics for Britain, has died aged 74. The former British 100m record-holder, who was married to fellow Olympian Alan Pascoe, passed away peacefully on Thursday (June 22) after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease in recent years.
Born in Southsea on March 28, 1949, as Della James, she enjoyed great success as a teenage athlete, winning AAA under-17 titles at 100 and 220 yards in 1965, whereas at the English Schools Championships she took 150 yards gold at Watford in 1965, 100 yards gold in Blackburn in 1966 and English Schools 220 yards gold in Peterborough in 1967.
Aged just 19 and competing for London Olympiades, she went to the Mexico Olympics in 1968 where she reached the semi-finals in the 100m. In the quarter-final, though, she tied Dorothy Hyman’s hand-timed UK 100m record of 11.3.
In the same year she was also part of a world record-breaking squad in the 4x200m when she combined with Maureen Tranter, Janet Simpson and Val Peat to clock 1:33.8 at Crystal Palace – a mark that took the mighty East Germans several years to beat.
With PBs of 11.36 for 100m and 23.5 for 200m, she was one of Britain’s best sprinters of the era and went on to represent England in the 100m and 200m at the Commonwealth Games in 1970 in Edinburgh.
When it came to national titles she was crowned Women’s AAA indoor 60m champion in 1967 and took indoor 200m gold in 1969, whereas outdoors she won the Women’s AAA 100m title in 1972 in 11.86. In all she won 12 medals at the Women’s AAA Championships.
At the 1972 Munich Olympics she was knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 200m but teamed up with Andrea Lynch, Judy Vernon and Anita Neil to finish seventh in the 4x100m final in a UK record of 43.71.
There was disappointment in 1973, though, when she was controversially overlooked for the 1974 Commonwealth Games team despite finishing top three in the 100m and 200m at the trials. Amid suspicions that she was penalised for being married to Alan Pascoe, who was building a reputation as an outspoken voice of the athletes, she wasn’t even picked for the relay and decided to retire from the sport.
The Pascoes met as teenagers when Alan joined the coaching group of Della’s father, Doug James. “Alan and I met at the running track in Portsmouth,” she told AW in 2017. “I had to slow down for him to catch me.”
On her father’s coaching, she added: “When I look back now I think we couldn’t have been fitter. He used to have us jumping over walls and in the stadium we’d go running up the steps, jumping over the barriers. It was very hard but we all used to do it all, and we were all really fit. That was the ground rules of his training – the fitness aspect.”
She worked as a creative arts teacher and later became heavily involved in charity work raising hundreds of thousands of pounds, partly through popular garden parties and quiz nights, in addition to having two children, Lucy and Daniel.
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