While attending Lord Roberts Public School in 1927, Lillian Palmer won her first medal and was named “Girl’s City Champion.” The “Boy’s City Champion” that year was Percy Williams. In 1929, as an intermediate member of coach Graham Bruce’s High School of Commerce track team, she ran faster sprint times than the Canadian senior team members who had participated at the 1928 Olympic Games.

In 1928, Palmer became the Vancouver and District Inter-High School girl’s junior champion in the broad jump, 50 yards, and 100 yards events. She competed at the 1930 Dominion Day International Track Meet held at Hastings Park and set an unofficial world record for the 50 yards in a time of 5.8 seconds. She also won the “Century Sprint,” just four tenths of a second off Bobbi Rosenfeld’s world record time and came second in the high jump.

At the 1930 Canadian Women’s Track & Field championships in Hamilton, (held in conjunction with the British Empire Games trials), Palmer won the 60m, 100m, and 4x100m relay events.

Palmer was a member of the Canadian women’s 4x100m relay team that won a silver medal at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. With fellow Vancouver sprinter Mary Frizzell, she was not only BC’s first female Olympian, but also this province’s first female Olympic medalist.

After the Olympics, Palmer took part in a post-Games meet billed as “The British Empire vs. USA”. Palmer’s relay team, composed of British and Canadian athletes, defeated the Americans, who had won gold and set a record at the Olympics.

At the 1933 and 1934 BC championships, Palmer won the 200m event both years. She served as captain of the Canadian team and flag bearer at the 1934 Women’s World Games held in London, England, where she placed fourth in the 200m event.

At the 1934 British Empire Games also in London, Palmer helped the Canadian women’s 660yd relay team to a gold medal with a time of one minute 14.4 seconds.