British athlete finished runner-up to Fanny Blankers-Koen in the 100m at the 1948 London Olympics

Dorothy Manley is best known for winning silver behind Fanny Blankers-Koen in the Olympic 100m final in London in 1948 but she was also a European champion and world record-holder in British relay teams.

Manley, who has died this month aged 94, was born in Manor Park in London on April 29, 1927. She was a West Ham United fan as a child and was among the crowd at Wembley in 1940 when her team beat Blackburn Rovers to win the Football League War Cup. Little did she realise that eight years later she would win an Olympic medal in the same stadium.

When those 1948 Games were approaching, Manley was 21 years old and fortunate to make the GB team. After a poor start she finished fifth in the 100m behind winner Winnie Jordan. However she was picked for the GB squad and under the coaching of Sandy Duncan continued to improve through the summer.

Manley was working as a typist in 1948 but took unpaid leave to compete in the Olympics. British team management gave her a blazer and skirt to wear at the opening ceremony but she travelled to her competitions on the Tube and raced wearing a singlet and shorts that her mother had made for her. “It was very different being an athlete back then,” she recalled in recent years.

Manley won her 100m heat in 12.1 and her semi-final in 12.4 as Blankers-Koen won the other semi-final in 12.0 from Shirley Strickland of Australia. Then, in a final that took place on a rain-soaked cinder track, Blankers-Koen stormed to the first of her four gold medals at those Games with 11.9 to finish three metres ahead of Manley, who ran 12.2 to pip Strickland to the silver medal.

“Fanny Blankers-Koen was such a wonderful person and she would have beaten me no matter how hard I had trained, because she was such a powerful girl,” said Manley.

Two years later Manley won her only Women’s AAA title when she clocked 25.2 for 200m at the White City. At the British Empire Games that same year in Auckland she won minor medals in the relays and finished fourth in the high jump despite only being asked to do it on the eve of the event.

Also in 1950 she won gold in the 4x100m at the European Championships in Berne after teaming up with Jean Desforges (Pickering), June Foulds and Elspeth Hay to beat, among others, a Dutch team that included Blankers-Koen. The victorious quartet appeared as cover stars on the front of AW although sadly Desforges died eight years ago and Foulds last year.

Then, in 1951, Manley was part of a GB team that set a world record for 4×220 yards of 1:41.4.

Toward the end of her career she married Peter Hall and she retired from athletics in 1952. Hall died in 1973 and six years later she married fellow athlete John Parlett in 1979. In addition to a busy family life, Manley taught the piano for many years and in 2012 was invited with Parlett to watch the women’s 100m final at the London 2012 Olympics.

A brilliant athlete, too, Parlett won the 1950 European 800m title and finished eighth in the 1948 Olympic 800m final. He is now aged 96 and one of the few surviving members of the 1948 team.

“Athletics to me was a sideline, now they do it all day long,” Manley told the Telegraph last year. “I used to have to go to work in a city office and leave there in the afternoon. I’d go down to the running track and have a little run around, that was my coaching – and that was only a few weeks before the actual Olympics. 

“Now they have four years to prepare, but four years before ours there was a war on and you didn’t think of it in that way at all. It’s very different.” 

» For the latest athletics news, events coverage and updates, check out the AW homepage and our social media channels on TwitterFacebook and Instagram