The Press sisters from the Soviet Union were a versatile couple of stars. Four years before, in Rome, Irina had won the 80m hurdles while her sister, Tamara Press, had taken gold in the shot and silver in the discus. They both returned to Olympic competition in 1964 intent on more success.
Irina’s triumph came in a new sport, the pentathlon, but for Tamara, the challenge was to retain her shot put title and take the discus gold. Two years earlier, she had secured the double in the European Championships, and her greatest rivals there were likely to be her main competitors in Tokyo.
First up was the discus. Since missing out on gold in Rome, Press had broken the world record five times. But the early lead was held by the German Ingrid Lotz, and Press simply couldn’t produce the sort of throw of which she was capable. After four of the six rounds, she was down in fourth place, potentially not just missing out on gold, but missing out on a medal altogether.
But great athletes deliver great performances under great pressure. Knowing she had only two efforts left, Press’s fifth throw soared long and landed 6cm ahead of Lotz’s lead mark. It was a new Olympic record, and enough to secure the gold medal.
There was no time to relax and celebrate, though. The shot put competition was the following day, an event in which Press had broken the world record twice since the Rome Olympic Games. But while nerves had blighted the early rounds of her discus final, this time around she was in form from the very start.
Her first put took her into a lead that she never looked like losing. In fact, Press’s final effort was her longest – an Olympic record distance of 18.14m – but by then her victory was all but assured.
Like her sister, she was to retire from competition a couple of years later, having secured a haul of three golds and one silver medal.