Margaret Coombe, 1944-2021

Published: 6 May 2021

Margaret Coombe, who has died aged 77, was a remarkable woman of varied talents, known to many in the club, which she joined in 2012. I first encountered her in her familiar lilac lycra leggings, hopping over a pole vault bar at the tender age of 66; in my house she was always referred to as “the glamorous lady vaulter.

Margaret’s first brush with athletics occurred when she was 55 after the last of her daughters had left home. She decided to take up a sport, and chose athletics, which was to prove a wise choice, and one that was to have an impact on many people. She once said that she had been a member of many clubs, but while she began athletics at Bedford, her loyalties were always to Oxfordshire clubs – Banbury, where she learned to pole vault, Radley where she competed as a veteran for many years, and finally Oxford, where she continued to compete until illness cut short her involvement. In her 16 years of veteran competition she won one European pole vaulting title, and briefly held the British women’s over 70s javelin record. She still holds club and county records for pole vault and javelin for the over 55s and over 60s.

Margaret also qualified as an official, and was a familiar face at tracks all over the South, where she was often a field judge at league matches and championships. Margaret will be best remembered for being ever-cheerful, encouraging, and plain-speaking; many of our juniors benefited from her words of encouragement as they faced a particularly daunting competition.

Besides athletics Margaret was devoted to her daughters, whom she had largely raised on her own, and to  bell-ringing in her church in Chalgrove.  Latterly Margaret was restricted by ill health, but continued to help out as an official whenever she felt well enough. She will be sorely missed, not only by her family, but also by her many friends in athletics. 

Richard Hart, May 6th 2021

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