Obituary: Olympic athlete who competed at Games alongside sibling

Mike Tagg with his sister Mary when they both selected to compete at the Mexico Olympics. Picture: I

Mary Tagg with her brother Mike when they were both selected to compete at the Mexico Olympics - Credit: IAN BURT

The former Olympian Mary Tagg, previously of Norfolk, has died at the age of 78. 

The athlete, who competed at the 1968 summer Olympics in Mexico, remains one-half of the only brother-and-sister duo to have represented Great Britain in athletics at the Games.

Born on November 10, 1943, in Derby, she would go on to move to East Ruston, near Happisburgh, before becoming a British sprinter where she competed in the women’s 400 metres. 

She was one of several Norfolk athletes who have competed in the Games over the years but remains the only one to attend with a competing sibling. 

The sprinter was joined at her one and only Olympics by her younger brother, Mike Tagg, who was born in Norfolk and was selected to run the 10,000m. 

Former pupils of Thorpe Grammar School in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, the pair joined Great Yarmouth Athletics Club at the Wellesley ground in the town, where they were trained initially by Tom Parke. 

Then aged 25, Mary, whose married name is Green, was the third-ranked Briton going into the Games. 

But despite being the sixth fastest in the two semi-finals, she was only the fifth quickest in her race.

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It was in the days before fastest losers so Mary had to watch the final from the stands and saw British team-mate Lillian Board take home silver. 

In 2012, during her presidency of Southend Athletics Club in Essex, she spoke about the experience and described it as “a wonderful one”. 

“To have my brother there also was fantastic,” she said.  

“We didn’t think our parents would be able to make it to Mexico to watch us but unbeknown to us they had taken out a bank loan to come over.   

“It was fantastic.” 

Mike went on to finish 13th in the 10,000m and said at the time that the altitude of Mexico did not present too much of a problem for him.   

His athletics career blossomed and he became a formidable cross country and road runner, winning both the National Cross Country Championship and the International Cross Country. 

After hanging up his spikes, Mike went on to set up a number of businesses, including Mr Shoes, and provided kit for two-time Olympic champion Lord Sebastian Coe.  

And while Mary never returned to the Games, her best time set on the cinder track of Mexico City remains one of the best ever performances by a Norfolk athlete over the distance. 

The event proved to be the pinnacle of her track career, as soon after it she decided to start a family during the 1970s with her late husband Andy – himself a notable sub-four-minute miler. 

The couple had met many years before at the English Schools Championships and again at the National training camp at Lilleshall. 

Over the years romance blossomed despite living miles apart, as Mr Green lived in Manchester. They married in August 1965 and remained in Southend for the duration of their marriage.  

Sports remained central in Mary's life and she used her role as a PE teacher at Southend High School for Girls to bring through some of the county’s top sporting talent. 

She was a regular face at athletics events around the county as her husband and their two sons, David and Michael, started competing.  

Highlights included becoming a key figure in setting up the Southend 10km, after her and Mr Green took over the running of the Southend five-mile race. 

They also became founding members of Castle Point Joggers, and ran in the Sunday Times National Fun Run on several occasions. 

Mr Green died at home in 2020, having suffered a heart attack. He was 77 years old. 

Mary Green died earlier this month on Thursday, April 7.