NMA collection record

Betty Cuthbert's running machine, 1962

Description

This is a running machine used by Betty Cuthbert to train for the 1956 Olympics. A wide rubber treadmill belt runs over a series of metal rollers and there are tube handrails along the sides.

Educational value

Betty Cuthbert is Australia's most successful sprinter, winning three Olympic gold medals at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 metres, and then returning eight years later to win the 400 metres. She was the first Australian, male or female, ever to win three gold medals at a single Games. Until the end of the century only two other Australians had achieved four gold medals in total, Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose; in 2004, Ian Thorpe took his tally to five.

Betty Cuthbert trained for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on this running machine, acquiring the extra endurance needed for the 400 metres under the eye of innovative coach June Ferguson. Cuthbert was one of the first athletes to use a running machine.

This running machine is important in the history of sports technology and athlete training methods. June Ferguson, Cuthbert's coach, had been a PE teacher and sports mistress as well as a successful athlete. She was a silver medallist at 1948 London Olympics. According to Cuthbert, Ferguson was keen on exercise routines but they weren't used in Australia very much then. We came in for quite a bit of teasing.' Ferguson installed a gymnasium in the basement of her house in 1958 but this did not include the running machine until about 1962-63.

Training methods before the 1960s did not generally include sophisticated techniques. Some athletes were even reluctant to warm up properly. The running machine was not used by athletes in Australia until well into the 1960s. The running machine signals a greater professionalism in sport training in Australia. Rather than relying on natural talent or conditioning, athletes and coaches adopted a more scientific approach to training methods.

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