Published Thu 13 Jun 2024

Dianne Burge OAM was a tremendously competitive athlete who had success at all levels of the sport of athletics. In an outstanding career she set or equalled 1 Commonwealth record, 3 Australian records and no less than 25 South Australian records. She won both sprints at the SA Athletics Championships 7 years in succession from 1962 to 1968. Di first competed in the Australian Athletics Championships in 1962 in Adelaide where she was unplaced in her heat of the 100 yards. She returned the following year in Brisbane where she won the 100 yards in 10.6. It was the first of five national titles for her, three over the short sprint and two over the 200 or 220.

Di was first selected to represent Australia at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Here she advanced to the quarter finals of the 100m and was a member of the Australian 4 x 100m relay team which placed sixth in the final. Two years later at the Commonwealth Games in Kingston she was the ‘Golden Girl’ of the Games, winning three gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4 x 110 relay. She was the toast of Adelaide – ‘our Di’ – when the press reported her victories to an excited home audience.

In 1967 she competed for the Commonwealth v USA in Los Angeles winning both the 100 and 200m. In the 100 she defeated the joint world record holder and reigning Olympic Champion, Wyomia Tyus, and Barbara Ferrell, who was top ranked in the world that year. Many rate this as the best international performance of her career. In 1968 Di set a Commonwealth Record of 11.2 for the 100m in a pre-Olympic race in Mexico City. In the Games themselves, she was hampered by illness but progressed through to the final of the 100m where she finished in sixth place. In 1968 she was undefeated in Australia over 100m.

Di competed for the Adelaide Harriers and was coached by the respected and successful Len Barnes throughout her career. Coach and athlete had a very close relationship which had much to do with Di’s success. Recognised in Athletics SA’s Hall of Fame and named as Athletics SA’s Athlete of the Century she was inducted in the Sport SA Hall of Fame in 2011.

A serene and gentle person, Di was much loved by all in the sport and maintained an active interest in athletics until her passing on 11 June 2024 at the age of 80 years. Attending the 2024 Adelaide Invitational and most recently the 2024 Australian Athletics Championships in April, Di took great pleasure in watching her grand-children competing for their State and Club.

Athletics has lost a true champion. All in the sport extend their sympathies to Di’s family – husband Graham, children David, Ian and Jane, grand-children and extended family.

A memorial service celebrating Di’s life will be held on Friday June 21, 11:30am at Heysen Chapel, Centennial Park. Athletics community members welcome to attend.

Photographs left to right: Dianne Burge in Kingston, Jamaica at the 1966 Commonwealth Games; Di celebrating her 80th birthday in October 2023; Di at SA Athletics Stadium during the 2024 Australian Athletics Championships with grand-daughter Lilliana Hoffman.


Published 13th June 2024 by Athletics SA drawing on the writings of Dr Fletcher McEwen OAM & Dr John Daly OAM.