The day one of the all-time greats got it right. And became the first British woman to win an Olympic gold medal in athletics. At the previous Olympics, Mary Rand had finished fourth in the 80 metres hurdles. Above all, she'd gone into the long jump final as favourite. Unbeaten in two years, she'd led the qualifying round with a long jump of 6.33 metres, which would have won the silver medal. But when it mattered, nerves led to over-striding. She ran through the pit twice, and her third jump was only good enough for 9th place. Here in Tokyo, she topped the qualifying again with 6.52 - and in the final she got everything right. Several times. Four of her six jumps were her best ever, and her shortest was enough for silver. Her fifth was the best by any woman. Before or since. Not the longest, but the best. They were still using a cinder track at the time. Crushed ashes pressed down with a roller. The ashes crumbled under the pressure of spiked shoes, or stuck together when it rained. They were damp today, after a day of solid drizzle. And Rand had to jump into a strong headwind. Plus she didn't do the training they do nowadays, or take the chemical supplements that became readily available. Add all that together and her winning jump of 6.76 metres is utterly fantastic. Second place went to Poland's Irena Kirszenstein, later Irena Szewińska, who won gold medals at three Olympics. Third went to the USSR's Tatyana Shchelkanova, whose world record Rand had just beaten. That 6.76 would have won Olympic gold in 1976 and every AAA Championships since 1988 despite the efforts of Fiona May and Jade Johnson. In Tokyo, Rand went on to win silver in the pentathlon behind one of the dodgiest athletes at the Games (October 17), and completed the set with bronze in the sprint relay. Her future husband won a gold medal four years later (October 19). Oh, and another British long jumper won gold four days later.
Mary Rand's world record lasted four years to the day, then it was broken at the next Olympic Games - but only just and only because they were held at altitude. Romania's Viorica Viscopoleanu had finished fifth behind Rand in 1964. Now her first jump in the final was 6.82 metres, more than 20 centimetres further than her previous best. Rand was nearly succeeded as champion by another British girl, Sheila Sherwood taking silver with 6.68 in the fifth round. On the same day, her husband set a British record in the semi-finals of the 400 metres hurdles.
Also at those Mexico Games, Jim Hines became the first runner to break 10 seconds for the 100 metres under electric timing. Taking advantage of the thin air and new-fangled all-weather track, he won the gold medal in 9.95 seconds, which lasted as a world record for nearly 15 years. For the first time at any Olympics, all the finalists in the 100 metres were black.
And the legendary Vladimir Golubnichiy had to survive an illegal onslaught to regain his Olympic title in the 20 kilometre walk. Gold medallist in 1960, he'd won bronze behind a British rival in 1964, and almost had to settle for the full set of medals with a silver today. Golubnichiy entered the stadium just ahead of Soviet team mate Nikolai Smaga. Then the Mexican crowd went wild as a Mexican walker appeared just behind them. Halfway round the last lap, José Pedraza overtook Smaga and went gunning for gold. Pedraza was clearly running rather than walking, and an international incident would have been arisen if he'd won the race or someone had been brave enough to disqualify him. Luckily Pedraza fell short by just a few yards. Golubnichiy won silver in 1972 and European Championship gold at the age of 38 in 1974.
Ernie Els won the World Matchplay at Wentworth for the seventh and last time, adding to his record. He got a helping hand right at the start of the final, when US Open champion Ángel Cabrera made a bogey at the very first hole. Despite a bad back, Els led by three holes after the first round and stretched that to four before Cabrera made two birdies to cut the lead to two. Els responded with a 15-foot putt at the next hole and birdied the 30th. He led by five with five to play and won 6&4.
On the same day in 2001, 43-year-old Ian Woosnam became the oldest winner of the World Matchplay. He won the trophy in three different decades, and this was his first final since his win in 1990. Playing 128 holes in four days, he beat a string of top players: Retief Goosen, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, and now Pádraig Harrington in the final. At the 9th, Harrington called a shot against himself when his ball moved among some trees while he set himself for the shot. He lost that hole, and Woosnam went from one down to two up by the 13th. He squeezed home 2&1 before handing over to Els, who won the title for the next three years.
The end of the road for the surprise team of this rugby union World Cup. Argentina had shocked their French hosts on the opening day and thumped Ireland in their last group match before beating Scotland in the quarter-finals (October 7). But South Africa's defence forced them into mistakes, three of which led to tries before half-time, when Argentina trailed 24-6. Immediately afterwards, a try by Manuel Contepomi gave them hope, and his brother Felipe kicked a few goals. But Felipe was also yellow-carded, and Percy Montgomery kicked 17 points, while express winger Bryan Habana scored his second try five minutes from the end. South Africa won 37-13 on their way to the final against England (October 20), who'd won their semi the day before. Argentina finished their splendid tournament by beating France again in the 3rd-Place play-off.
America's golfers retained the Ryder Cup with an easy win at Lytham St Anne's. In the singles, Britain & Ireland's 48-year-old captain Dai Rees ended his Cup career on a high by beating major winners Jay Hebert and Doug Ford. But the USA won 14½-9½ and Rees was on the winning side only once in nine attempts (October 5, 1957).
On the same day in 1983, Europe came close to winning the Cup. But Lanny Wadkins made an incredibly precise chip from 180 feet to halve his singles match with José María Cañizares, and Tom Watson edged out Bernard Gallacher with a hole to spare. But the one-point defeat gave Europe heart for the next Ryder Cup two years later (September 15).
Howard Winstone just couldn't get past Vicente Saldivar. He fought him three times for the world featherweight title but lost all three, including the third today. Winstone had already missed his best chances, at Earl's Court two years earlier and Ninian Park in June of this one. Even a Welsh crowd couldn't lift the stylish Welshman, and he lost both fights on points. Tonight he travelled to his nemesis' back yard. While Cardiff had Ninian Park, Mexico City had the vast Azteca - and the same high altitude which left Europeans gasping at the 1968 Olympics and 1970 football World Cup. Add all that to a formidable opponent, and Winstone didn't have much chance. Apart from one disqualification, Saldivar was unbeaten as a pro. By the time he knocked Winstone down in the seventh round, it was clear the Welshman couldn't keep him at bay with his left jab or dance round him in that thin air. When Saldivar floored him again in the 12th, manager Eddie Thomas threw in the towel. Saldivar retired after the fight but came back to win the WBC title three years later. Winstone finally got his hands on a world championship belt after a strangely soft fight in 1968 (January 23).
Reggie Doherty was born in Wimbledon. Very appropriately, since that's where he made his name. A tall and stylish tennis player, he was Wimbledon singles champion four years in a row, beginning in 1897. It was claimed that his sturdier little brother Laurie allowed him to win the 1898 Challenge Round, but Reggie was at his peak then and Laurie had a few years to go. They didn't like playing each other in major championships, and Reggie stood aside to let Laurie through to the final of the Olympic Games in 1900, handing kid brother the mantle. The brothers won the doubles at those Olympics, and they reached ten Wimbledon doubles finals, winning eight. Never physically robust (he once said he'd never known what it was like to feel healthy for an entire day).
The first player to score 50 points in an international rugby match. In a South American Championship match in São Paulo, Argentina whipped perennial whipping boys Paraguay. They scored 18 tries, so their 98-3 win would be 116-3 now. Right wing Eduardo Morgan scored six of those tries and converted 13 of them, so his 50 points would be worth 56 nowadays, a world record until 2002 (July 21).
The day baseball's 'hitless wonders' won the World Series. That year, it was a Chicago derby between the Cubs and the White Sox. In the regular season, the Cubs had won 116 games, still the all-time record, while the White Sox had the worst batting average in their League. But in the World Series, they made 26 hits in the last two games to win 4-2. In the sixth, they took seven runs off Cubs pitcher Mordecai Brown. The Cubs recovered from the shock to win the World Series for the next two years, while the White Sox were more famous for the one they sold in 1919 (October 9).