SHE-LOGY: Women in Sports
Who is the greatest athlete that ever lived? Who do you name when asked that question?
My gut response would be these familiar names (and please be warned that I am the last expert when it comes to sports): Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth.
Again, no woman. I went through a list of 100 Greatest Athletes of all time. Great, the three men I named were in the list. Was there a woman? There’s an improvement, if compared to my little list. There was but ONE woman. Serena Williams.
But I discovered that there was an extraordinary athlete who excelled in the sports where Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods AND Babe Ruth dominated.
BABE DIDRIKSON a.k.a. Mildred Ella Didrikson Zaharias. 1914-1956.
- 10th Greatest North American Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN.
- Woman Athlete of the Half Century, in 1950 by Associated Press.
- SOFTBALL. Nicknamed “Babe” after the baseball legend Babe Ruth, because of hitting 5 home runs in 1 childhood baseball game.
- BASKETBALL. High-scoring forward on her high school’s basketball team. She got a job in order to join the basketball team (The Golden Cyclones) where she became its star player who led them to the national championship for the next 3 years. She was All-American forward for 2 of those years.
- TRACK AND FIELD. She won 1st place in eight of 10 events and 2nd in the ninth, all in a span of 3 hours. She single-handedly won the 1932 AAU championships while the runner-up team with 22 athletes scored 8 points behind her 30 points. She broke 4 world records in the javelin, 80-meter hurdles, high jump and baseball throw.
- OLYMPICS. She entered in 3 events, the maximum allowed for women. She won the first women’s Olympic javelin, set a world record in winning the first Olympic 80-meter hurdles. She was denied the gold medal in high jump because of her technique which is now a standard practice, a dubious ruling since nothing was said to her about her style throughout the competition.
- GOLF. Won 17 straight Women’s Amateur tournaments, a feat never equaled by anyone to this day. By 1950, she had won every golf title available, and remains the greatest woman golfer of all time. In 1948, she became the first woman to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, but her application was rejected by the USGA, stating that the event was intended to be open to men only.
Yes, this woman was real.
“Much has been made of Babe Didrikson’s natural aptitude for sports, as well as her competitive spirit and indomitable will to win. But not enough has been said about the patience and strength of character expressed in her willingness to practice endlessly, and her recognition that she could reach the top and stay there only by incessant hard work.” – Paul Galico
DANICA PATRICK. Born 1982.
The most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel racing, with a chock-full of firsts for women in auto racing.
- First woman to lead the Indy 500.
- First woman to win the pole position at the Daytona 500.
- Only women’s victory in an IndyCar Series race for her win in the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
- First female NASCAR driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole, in 2013.
"I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl."
NADIA COMANECI. Born 1961.
Romanian gymnast who became the first woman to score a perfect 10 in an Olympic gymnastics event in 1976, at age 14.
Her performance at the 1976 Olympics redefined both her sport and audiences’ expectations of female athletes.
At the 1980 Olympics, she won 2 gold and 2 silver medals.
In 1999, Nadia received a World Sports Award of the Century after being elected “Athlete of the Century” during a gala in Vienna, Austria.
Among many girls, I grew up inspired and empowered by her “perfect 10” achievement. She was not just a female athlete. She was a young girl who achieved an Olympic milestone. She has to be part of this list.
“Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.”
SHE-LOGY is a blog project open to everyone who is interested to celebrate women this whole month of March. If you’re reading this, I extend that invitation to you to contribute post/s about the women you’d like to honor. You can email me at email@example.com. Thank you for reading this.