TOP OF THE WORLD: Carole Bernoth now prefers a round of golf instead of the high jump.
TOP OF THE WORLD: Carole Bernoth now prefers a round of golf instead of the high jump. Yvonne Gardiner

Record breaker's high hopes at both Games

ATHLETE Carole Bernoth overcame many hurdles in the 1950s to become the first Gold Coaster to compete at both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

She was just 15 years of age when selected as a high jumper for the Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games) held in Vancouver, Canada, in 1954.

"I broke the Australian record in 1954 in Perth and made the Queensland team the same year,” Carole said.

"At 15 at the Games, I was the youngest competitor and the winner equalled my Australian record.”

On her return from Canada, Carole spent months in a steel brace with a spinal injury, but that wasn't caused by athletics.

"I had scoliosis as a young child. I think exercise helped, not hindered, my back problem,” she said.

Coming home from these international events without a medal is still a source of sadness for Carole.

"I feel I could have won a medal at the Empire Games, with the right coaching and advice,” she said.

"I was so naïve that I didn't even know where to train or warm up, even that I could.”

Carole's mother Lillian became a widow before her daughter's sporting talent was recognised.

"There were six children in our family,” Carole said.

"We walked to school at Tweed Heads from Coolangatta, a couple of miles at least.

"My sporting career all started at Tweed Heads school. The school offered high jump as a sport to the girls and I decided to have a go.

"My mother used to take me by bus to Southport and we joined up with a cycling club to train.”

At that time, no athletics club existed on the Gold Coast.

"I joined a club when I was about 13, the Mayne Harriers. I had to go by train to Brisbane for Saturday competition,” Carole said.

"Mum came with me. She went without a lot of things herself.

"Sometimes, coming home, we'd have to come back by train and catch a bus from Southport.

"I did high jump for the love of it. I didn't know I was good. I just did as I was told.”

Carole also successfully competed in other field events such as shotput, discus and pentathlon.

"I used to have a go at everything,” she said.

"Right from the start as a junior, they put me in competition with seniors, because there was no competition in juniors.

"I didn't have a trainer. I just used to run when I felt like it.

"I ran and jumped in bare feet until aged 13 when I got my first pair of spikes.

"They felt so strange that, for a while, I only used one shoe on my take-off.”

Carole broke the Queensland record, then went to Perth and broke the Australian record.

"I didn't have a program to work to, nor anyone to tell me what to do, no managers or coaches,” she said.

As a 15-year-old selected to compete for her country, she was reluctant to travel.

"I said, 'I can't go away. I can't leave home'. I was so shy.”

Competing at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956.
Competing at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. Picasa

In 1956, aged 18, Carole was picked for the Olympic Games in Melbourne. Community groups in the twin towns of Coolangatta and Tweed Heads banded together to fundraise for Carole's expenses.

Family life replaced the world of high jump when Carole married pharmacist James Sim in 1961.

"I have always maintained a high level of fitness and my passion since 1971 has been golf, playing at Southport Golf Club twice a week,” she said.

Carole was a torchbearer for the 2000 Olympics and will take part in the 2018 Commonwealth Games relay on April 2 at Runaway Bay.

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