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Steven B. Jacobson and William A. Jacobson

sprinter, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, the eldest of five children of Samuel Ashford, a non-commissioned U.S. Air Force officer, and Vietta Ashford, a homemaker. Because of her father's service assignments, the family lived a nomadic lifestyle before settling in Roseville, California, where Ashford was the only girl on Roseville High's boys track team. She earned her spot by beating the school's fastest boys. Ashford's precocious world-class speed was obvious by her senior year, when she recorded times of 11.5 and 24.2 seconds, respectively, in the 100 and 200 meter dashes.

Ashford entered UCLA in September 1975 with an athletic scholarship. She soon qualified for the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada, and there, at nineteen, she qualified for the finals and was the top U.S. finisher in the 100 meters, finishing fifth in 11.24 seconds. Ashford was a collegiate all-American in 1977 and 1978 She ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Honored in 1979 and 1981 as Woman Athlete of the Year, Evelyn Ashford was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. She grew up in Roseville, California, where her high school invited her to join its all-male track-and-field team after she outran some of the male athletes. Ashford then attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) on an athletic scholarship. During her college years, from 1975 through 1978, she trained as a sprinter, a fast runner over short distances. She won four national collegiate running championships and also competed in her first Olymic Games, held in Montreal, Canada, in 1976.

In 1978 Ashford became a fulltime athlete, winning World Cup titles in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints the following year. She could not compete in the 1980 Olympics which were held in Russia then the Soviet Union because the United States decided to boycott the games that ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born Jane Kimberly Batten, in McRae, Georgia, the daughter of Ella Jean Batten. In 1976 her family moved to Rochester, New York, where she participated in basketball, track and field, and volleyball at the city’s East High School. Principally a long and triple jumper on the track and field team, Batten also competed in the 400-meter hurdles, posting times of 61.1 seconds in 1986 and 60.94 seconds in 1987. She graduated East High in 1987, ranked third in the nation in the triple jump.

Recruited by several colleges to compete in the triple jump, Batten selected Florida State University (FSU) in Tallahassee. For the Seminoles, she competed in the 100, 200, and 400 meters; 100- and 400-meter hurdles; long jump and triple jump; and the 4 × 100- and 4 × 400-meter relays. Indoors in 1988 Batten finished thirteenth in the triple jump at the National ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in Greenwood, Mississippi. Valerie Ann Brisco is the sixth of ten children of Arguster and Guitherea Brisco. In 1965 the Brisco family moved from rural Mississippi to Los Angeles. Brisco’s older brothers, Robert and Melvin Brisco, ran track at Alain Leroy Locke Senior High School in South Los Angeles. Late one afternoon in 1974, after completing their workout on the Locke track, stray gunfire from rival gangs struck and killed Robert. His death at Locke was ironic since the high school had been established in 1967, after the Watts riots of 1965, to provide South Los Angeles families a safe and secure place for their children to learn. Robert’s death motivated Brisco to run track at Locke, especially after she outran the fastest girl on the track team in physical education class. In 1977 she recorded times of 11 00 seconds for 100 yards ...

Article

Born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, Zola Budd was seventeen years of age in 1984 when she set an unofficial world record for the 5000-meter race with a time of 15 minutes, 1.83 seconds. At that time South Africa was barred from international sport because of its policy of Apartheid, so Budd adopted British citizenship in order to qualify for the 1984 Olympic Games. This move caused a good deal of controversy because it allowed a white South African athlete to defy the ban and appear in international competitions. At the 1984 Games Budd gained international attention when in the last lap of the 3000 meter race American runner Mary Decker Slaney the world record holder in the 3000 meter and the favorite to win tripped on Budd s foot and fell Both Budd and Decker Slaney finished out of the medals Budd initially received much of the ...

Article

Dália Leonardo

field hockey player, field hockey coach, and educator, was born Gloria Jean Howard in Salem, New Jersey, to Roosevelt and Ida Mae Howard. Her father worked on a farm, and her mother as a domestic employee; neither of her parents finished high school. Byard grew up in Woodstown, New Jersey, in an old farm house with no running water, bathrooms, or heating. She has described her adolescence as “challenging”—following her brother's death she took on additional responsibilities as the eldest sibling, playing an active role as caregiver to her five youngest sisters. As a counterbalance to her busy and demanding home-life, Byard relied on her love of field hockey and her athletic ability as a source of inspiration and hope for future successes. In high school she began reading field hockey rule books and imagining someday being profiled in such a publication.

After graduating from Woodstown ...

Article

Julián Lázaro

was born on 24 January 1964 in the city of Santander de Quilichao, in the department of Cauca, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Cali, Colombia. Norfalia soon distinguished herself through her athletic abilities, which became very evident during her time in high school. It was there that she discovered her talent and her vocation. As she herself would say many years later, “I became interested in athletics when I was 15 years old because of a simple physical education class” (Revista Semana, 2012).

Her talent soon transcended the curriculum of her physical education classes, and she quickly advanced to representing her school at track events within the department and later on a national level, thereby establishing herself as a promising young athlete. At age 16, she began to break records in the 100 and 400 meters, in the youth categories of national track competitions. In 1981 ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the eldest of the two children of Jetta Clark and Dr. Joe Louis Clark. The Clarks lived in Newark, a short distance from her birthplace, until moving to South Orange after the 1967 riots. Her father, who served as the principal of Eastside High School, in Paterson, New Jersey, gained national attention for enforcing discipline and improving academic achievement at Eastside, one of the state’s toughest inner-city schools, and became the subject of the 1989 film Lean on Me, in which the award-winning actor Morgan Freeman portrayed him.

Clark performed with the Alvin Ailey Junior Dance Company until the age of fourteen, when she began to participate in track, concentrating on the half-mile (880 yards), the distance at which her father excelled at William Patterson University (then known as the Paterson State Teachers College) in Wayne, New Jersey. Interviewed for the Best ...

Article

Leslie Heywood

track-and-field athlete, was the fifth of ten children born to Fred “Doc” and Evelyn Coachman in Albany, Georgia. She was primarily raised by her great-grandmother and maternal grandmother and endured the difficulties of impoverishment. As a child, she participated in music and dance and was active in sports. Like many other African American women, she competed in basketball and track in junior high, where she came to the attention of Coach Henry E. Lash at Madison High School.

It was at this point that Coachman made a leap and became part of what was fast becoming a track-and-field dynasty when she transferred to the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where she was trained by the renowned coach Cleveland Abbott. Founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881 as a teacher s college Tuskegee was one of the first black institutions to embrace women s athletics and Abbott s team ...

Article

Hilary Mac Austin

Today, when black women dominate track-and-field events, it is difficult to remember that the first Olympic medal won by an African American woman was not awarded until after World War II. The first gold medal was won at the same Olympics; that medal went to Alice Coachman, a legendary high jumper from Tuskegee Institute.

Coachman was born (some sources say 1921 or 1922) near Albany, Georgia. She was one of ten children of Fred and Evelyn Coachman, who worked most days picking cotton. Sometimes her father traveled to Ohio to work as a plasterer, and sometimes her mother cleaned the houses of white families, but usually the entire family worked in the fields at nearby plantations.

Coachman started her jumping career on the red clay roads of Georgia The children would tie rags together and appoint one child to hold each end of the homemade rope Then they ...

Article

Adam R. Hornbuckle

also spelled Yudelkis, weightlifter, was born Yuderqui Maridalia Contreras in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, on 27 March 1986. She was the fourth of five children of Aristides Sánchez Reyna and Eridania Contreras. Raised by her mother, she attended Anna Josefa Puello elementary school and graduated from Gaston Fernadez Deligne and CENAPEC High School. Contreras participated in track and field until the age of 14, before switching to weightlifting. At the age of 17 she won the silver medal in the 53-kilogram (116.84 pounds) weight class at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Competing in the 2003 World Weightlifting Championships in Vancouver, British Columbia, she finished thirteenth in the 53-kilogram weight class.

Over the next five years, Contreras developed into one of the region’s leading weightlifters in her weight class. At the 2004 Pan American Weightlifting Championships in Cali Columbia she won the ...

Article

Kathryn Mathers

Zimbabwean swimmer and Olympic gold medal winner, was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 16 September 1983. Kirsty attended the Harare Dominican Convent High School. Her parents, Rob and Lyn Coventry, own the Harare-based household chemical company, Omnichem. In 1989 six-year-old Kirsty, who had been taught to swim by her mother, was breaking records at the Highlands Swimming Club. At ten she was a dominant swimmer for Pirates Swimming Club under the coaching of Charles Mathieson. Kirsty was recruited by Kim Bracken for the Auburn University swimming team in Alabama. By December 2010 Kirsty Coventry had won seven Olympic medals, the most individual medals for an African athlete.

Kirsty was nominated as Zimbabwe’s National Sports’ person of the year in 1999 when she represented her country at the All-Africa Games in Johannesburg. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney she was the first Zimbabwean to reach a semifinal in any ...

Article

Stephen Naylor

was born Cristiane Rozeira de Souza Silva, in Osasco, São Paulo, on 15 May 1985. Cristiane began playing soccer at an early age, appearing for local youth teams in São Paulo. She made her international debut for Brazil in the 2002 Under-19 Women’s World Championship. Playing as a forward, Cristiane’s goal-scoring ability ensured a swift transition to the senior Brazilian squad, where she would form an effective strike partnership with her teammate Marta.

The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens saw Cristiane impress herself on the consciousness of world football supporters with a series of impressive displays. Her combinations with Marta helped Brazil reach the final, where they narrowly lost in the gold medal game to the United States. Cristiane finished as the joint top scorer, with five goals, a feat she repeated at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where Brazil once again had to settle for silver at ...

Article

Olivia Perlow

the son of Cherie Davis and Reginald Shuck. As a single mother raising her only child in the Chicago South Side Hyde Park neighborhood, Cherie Davis sought to provide Shani with a wealth of opportunities. She introduced him to roller skating at the age of two, and by four years old he was skating so fast that the rink monitors often had to slow him down. At age six it was suggested to his mother that Shani try speed skating. Since there were no ice skating rinks on the South Side of Chicago, they had to travel to the northern suburbs twice a week to practice with the Evanston Speed Skating Club, a majority-black club with a black coach, uniquely positioned within a virtually all-white sport.

At the age of six Davis began competing locally and by the age of eight he was winning regional competitions Although he would sometimes ...

Article

Kennetta Hammond Perry

Although she had already established a stellar record in the arena of women’s gymnastics by the time she was twenty years old, through the years Dominique Dawes has continued to show her commitment to athletics and public service. In addition to developing a world-class reputation in sports, Dawes has also been an advocate for a number of important issues, including highway safety for young drivers and increasing self-esteem for young women.

Dominique Dawes was born to Don and Loretta Dawes in Silver Spring, Maryland. At an early age her parents enrolled her in gymnastics classes, a move that allowed her to enter uncharted territory and build an impressive array of accomplishments. Dawes began competing at age nine, and by the time she was twelve, she had entered her first international championship, placing sixteenth in the all-around competition in Brisbane, Australia.

With each passing year Dawes cultivated her skills as a ...

Article

Wayne Wilson

Olympic rower and administrator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert David DeFrantz, a social worker, YMCA administrator, and local school board member, and Anita Page, a speech pathologist and university professor. When DeFrantz was eighteen months old, her family moved to Indiana, living first in Bloomington and then Indianapolis.

DeFrantz was greatly influenced by her family's history of social and political activism. Her grandfather, Faburn Edward DeFrantz, was executive director of the Senate Avenue YMCA in Indianapolis from 1916 until 1952. Under his leadership, the Senate Avenue Y's “Monster Meetings” became an important forum over a span of several decades for the examination of issues affecting African Americans. They were public educational gatherings that brought to town such African American luminaries as W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, Roy Wilkins and ...

Article

Winifred W. Thompson

Anita L. DeFrantz is one of the most influential people in sports in the early twenty-first century. She became involved in the Olympic field as a competitor when she won a bronze medal on the U.S. women’s eight-oared shell at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. She was the first woman to represent the United States on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1986 and, in 1997, she became the first woman, as well as the first African American, to be vice president of the IOC. DeFrantz has worked on the Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta Olympic Games as a member of the United States Olympic Executive Committee.

DeFrantz was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Robert and Anita P. DeFrantz Her father directed the Community Action against Poverty organization her mother taught and eventually became a professor of Education at the University of San Francisco DeFrantz s ...

Article

Martha Saavedra

Ethiopian long-distance runner, and the first sub-Saharan African woman to win an Olympic gold medal, was born on 21 March 1972 in Bekoji 80 miles 130 kilometers south of Addis Ababa Ethiopia Like many in their community her father Tulu and her mother Derartu Kenene were farmers who raised cows sheep and horses Despite a population of only 30 thousand Bekoji in the Arsi zone in the central Ethiopia highlands at an altitude of 9 800 feet 3 000 meters is also the birthplace of many successful distance runners from Ethiopia These include Kenenisa Bekele and Derartu s younger cousin Tirunesh Dibaba 2008 Olympic 5 000 10 000 meter and multiple World Cross Country women s champion Like the majority of the country s elite runners as well as athletes in other sports in Ethiopia Derartu is from the Oromo ethnic group A study of Ethiopian national senior and ...

Article

Sibyl Collins Wilson

track-and-field sprinter and hurdler, philanthropist, and health advocate, was born Yolanda Gail Devers in Seattle, Washington, to Adele Devers, a teacher's aide, and Larry Devers, a Baptist minister. While she was still young, the family relocated to National City, a suburb of San Diego, California. As a young girl she used to bite her nails, prompting her father to issue a challenge encouraging her not to perpetuate that habit. This resulted in her growing her nails, which ultimately became so long that they became her signature style. Devers would later alter her starting position at track meets to accommodate her long nails.

Motivated by competition with her brother Parenthesis also known as P D Devers developed an interest in running P D would dare her to race and then tease her after each loss which pushed her to develop the drive to eventually beat him It was ...

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Monique M. Chism

Named the “World’s Fastest Woman” after winning the gold medal for the 100-meter dash at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Gail Yolanda Devers endlessly proved she was a super athlete who overcame a number of hurdles throughout her life.

Daughter of the Reverend Larry Devers, a Baptist minister, and Alabe Devers, a teacher’s aide, she was born in Seattle, Washington. The family eventually settled in National City, California, a small town near San Diego. Devers’s interest in running began when she was a little girl, fueled in part by her desire to beat her brother, Parenthesis, in races. Her enthusiasm for the sport and commitment to self-improvement continued through high school, where she won numerous awards. Upon graduation, she decided to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology. At UCLA, under the tutelage of coach Bob Kersee ...