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Breaking tradition

Bev BuckinghamBev FrancisJess SamsJess Sams

More information about Bev Buckingham, Bev Francis and Jess Sams can be found in the AWAP register.

Bev Buckingham

Bev Buckingham settled in Australia in 1967. She became the first female jockey in the southern hemisphere to win 1000 races. After a fall at the Elwick Racecource (Hobart) in May 1998 she was wheelchair-bound, but regained her strength and mobility until she was able to walk again unaided.

Born in Norfolk, England, Bev Buckingham migrated to Australia with her parents when she was two years old. Living in Tasmania she was soon helping her father, a racehorse trainer, in his stables while taking riding lessons and competing through pony clubs. Aged fourteen she became an apprentice jockey for her father. Women were not allowed to compete against male jockies until the 1970s when the Lady Jockey's Association lobbied for fifteen races per year on country Victorian racetracks. By 1979 women were permitted to race as regular jockies. Buckingham and her friend Kim Dixon were among the first women to race professionally against men in the 1980s.

A win on her fourth ride at Elwick in 1980, on Limit Man, launched Buckingham's career. By the end of her first season's racing she had ridden 22 winners and was ranked ninth overall on the jockey's table. With a total of 63 winners in her second season, at the age of seventeen, Buckingham became the first woman in the world to win a State Jockey's Premiership. Over her eighteen year career she brought home trophies for the Devonport Cup, the Launceston Cup, the Queen's Cup and the Hobart Cup (three times - 1986, 1996, 1998). In 1984 she became the first woman to ride in the Caulfield Cup.

After a horrific accident in May 1998 in which Buckingham fractured two vertebrae in her neck, she spent many months in rehabilitation on her family's Tasmanian property. She defied predictions that she would never walk again, and gave birth to a daughter, Tara, in 2000. Today she works with her father as a racehorse trainer at Sienna Lodge in Victoria. She was inducted into the inaugural Tasmanian Racing Hall of Fame in 2005.

Bev Francis

As a teenager, Bev Francis was an accomplished shot-putter in track and field. She began powerlifting, winning six world titles from 1980 to 1985 and earning the accolade of "Strongest Woman in History". In 1983 Francis was invited to attend the Caesar's World Cup in Las Vegas, representing the 'muscular extreme' and sparking a debate within the bodybuilding community on 'how much muscle is too much?'

At the contest Francis met IFBB judge and powerlifter Steve Weinberger, whom she later married. She relocated to Weinberger's Long Island abode and entered her first IFBB Ms. Olympia contest in 1986, where she was placed 10th. The next year, she won the IFBB Women's World Pro Championships and was third in that year's IFBB Ms. Olympia. She was third again in 1988 and 1989, and runner-up in 1990. In the 1991 contest she presented the most muscular female physique ever seen and finished, controversially, as runner-up to Lenda Murray. Once again, Francis' extreme muscular form sparked debate and led to an attempt to overhaul procedure.

Today Francis and Weinberger live in Syosset, Long Island, as co-owners of Bev Francis Gold's Gym.

Jess Sams

Daughter of Dan and Mary Ann Millard, pioneers of the Ulladulla region, Jess Sams moved to Sydney as a young woman to work as a seamstress and milliner. She married Captain Archie Sams in 1926, and was an active member of the Ulladulla Ambulance Service, the Country Women's Association and the Hospital ladies' ancillary.

In 1938 she took part in a nationwide fishing contest as part of Australia's 150th celebrations, sailing in a 30 foot double-ended carvel fishing launch with two brothers, Michael and Salvatore Puglisi. Over 580 anglers entered the competition to win a series of valuable trophies. Sams and the Puglisi brothers were aiming for the £500 trophy for the heaviest catch. On 27 February 1938 found herself hanging on with all of her might to a stout split cane rod, eventually pulling in an enormous striped marlin.

Back at the Ulladulla wharf consternation ensued as it was discovered that there was no provision in the rules for women anglers to win the competition's major trophy. Officials in Sydney soon backed down after angry phone calls from the townspeople. Working on the telephone exchange, Sams' niece overheard discussions implying that the fish would be disqualified as it had not been weighed on the official scales. Sams and her husband responded by driving straight to Jervis Bay, arriving at 4am for a weigh-in. The fish turned the scales at 330 lbs - standing today as the Australian 130lb line class women's record for a striped marlin.

A supporter of Game Fishing, Sams' donated her trophy to the Australian Fishing Museum. Today the annual Game Fishing Tournament is held at Ulladulla and named in Sams' honour.