Donna DeVarona was the youngest swimmer to compete at the 1960 Summer Olympics. In the following Olympics, she won gold medals in the 400-meter individual medley and as a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay. In her career, she set 18 swimming records after retiring shortly after the 1964 Olympics. Despite her Olympic medals, she was unable to obtain a college swimming scholarship; at the time they did not exist for women.
In 1965, de Varona signed a contract with ABC, which made her one of the first female sportscaster in television history. She served as Late night host of both the 1984 Winter Olympics and the 1984 Summer Olympics. She did anchor the Los Angeles Olympics with Jim Lampley and served as both a play-by-play announcer for Synchronized Swimmingand as a color analyst for Swimming in the women’s category.
De Varona also served as a correspondent for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. In addition, she was a political activist in favor of the Title IX entitlement program. She helped to establish the Women’s Sports Foundation, where she served as their first president from 1976 to 1984.
WILMA RUDOLPH – A LEGEND AND A HERO
Wilma Rudolph blazes to three golds in 1960 Olympics–
Wilma Rudolph, who had been hobbled by polio as a child, simply dominates women’s track at the 1960 Rome Games and shows the world … well, mostly what she looks like from behind. In the 100 meters, she sets a world record in the semifinals, and wins gold. She sets an Olympic record and takes another gold in the 200 meters. Then Rudolph tops off her remarkable performance by anchoring a 400-meter relay team to a come-from-behind victory over Germany in the finals to take gold (the relay team also sets a world record in the semifinals).
Rudolph uses her victories and her popularity (she’s mobbed by fans in Europe) to strike a blow for civil rights, refusing to attend a segregated welcome home event planned by Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington. She does, though, attend ceremonies in her honor in her hometown of Clarksville. They are the first integrated events in the town’s history.
Wilma Rudolph- An uphill battle
(Sept. 20, 1973)
Billie Jean King defended all women in her historic “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs.
The carnival atmosphere surrounding the Astrodome event obscures, to a certain extent, two elements that make this a great moment for women’s sports: 1. Millions of people are talking about, and riveted to, a sports event with a woman as a central figure; and 2. Billie Jean King doesn’t only defeat Bobby Riggs — a former Wimbledon champ who is a 5-2 favorite — she dusts him 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to capture the $100,000 winner-take-all purse. Fifty million watch the event, broadcast worldwide.
WOMEN COACHING MEN
1990-MEN’S D-I PROGRAM GETS FIRST FEMALE COACH
Rick Pitino hired Locke Mattox, in 1990 to join his University of Kentucky staff where she spent four years with the Wildcats before leaving to have a baby. A year later, she returned to the bench to coach the Kentucky women.
Locke-Mattox helped Pitino restore respect to Kentucky basketball in the wake of recruiting violations and NCAA probation. The Wildcats won Southeastern Conference championships in 1992, 1993 and 1994, and reached the Final Four in 1993 and lay the groundwork for the national championship in 1996. The other assistants at the time were Tubby Smith, Herb Sendek and Billy Donovan, now coaching at Minnesota, Arizona State and Florida, respectively.
During the four seasons Mattox was on Pitino’s staff, the Wildcats were 108-24 with a Final Four appearance in 1993. She also served as an assistant athletic director at UK from 1994-95.
Fast-forward: Hired by head coach Mike Thibault on March 27, 2003, Mattox brought 18 years of Division I and international coaching experience with her when she accepted an assistant coaching position with the Connecticut Sun.
The United States defeats China to win 1999 World Cup
In front of 90,185 fans (including President Clinton) at the Rose Bowl — the biggest crowd ever to watch a women’s sports event in person, and a national TV audience, Brandi Chastain slips a penalty kick past China’s goalkeeper, Gao Hong, to give the U.S. women a win after 90 minutes of regulation and two sudden-death overtimes.
Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, Michelle Akers, Tiffeny Milbrett, et al savor the unprecedented attention they receive during the six-game march to the title. “It’s like somebody let the secret out of the box, and all the sudden everybody’s following us around, screaming for autographs, sticking cameras in our faces,” says Akers.
President Clinton and others congratulated the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team for their win in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final match against China. They also noted that the event had been the largest women’s sporting event in history and praised the team for generating interest in women’s sports.
CAMMIE GRANATO & ANGELA JAMES
2010 – Cammi Granto and Angela James become the first women elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
American Cammi Granato (photo right) and Canada’s Angela James (photo left) become the first women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Granato won Olympic gold at the 1998 Nagano Games and silver in 2002 in Salt Lake City, playing in every World Championship for the US team from the inaugural event in 1990 to 2005. James won four World Championship golds for Canada, scoring 34 goals in the 20 games of her four World Champ appearances.
CELEBRATING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH | VIDEO REWIND: CAMMIE GRANATO & ANGELA JAMES INDUCTED INTO THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME | WSEN – Women’s Sports & Entertainment Network http://bit.ly/dI3PEy
CELEBRATING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH: JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE
Year: 1987 | First female athlete to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, aside from the swimsuit edition.
Jackie Joyner Kersee was the first woman ever to win two consecutive Olympic gold medals in one of sport’s most grueling events–the heptathlon. In total she won six Olympic medals, and was voted Sports Illustrated for Women’s Greatest Female Athlete of all time.
Considered by some to be the greatest female athlete of the 20th Century, Joyner-Kersee won six medals over the span of four Olympics, including three gold in the heptathlon and long jump. Her world record in the long jump has been broken, but she continues to hold the heptathlon world record (7,291, set in 1988). At UCLA, Joyner-Kersee was a track and basketball star who scored more than 1,000 points in her career.
On Monday, February 21, 2011, Justine Siegal became the first woman to pitch batting practice in a major-league spring training camp when she threw to the Cleveland Indians.
Siegal, a Cleveland native who grew up rooting for the Indians, fulfilled a lifelong dream. Not only did she make history throwing to her favorite team, but she finally got to pitch to major-league hitters.
Justine Siegal is no stranger to firsts, at 13, when her baseball coach turned to her and said he didn’t think girls should play baseball, and that he didn’t want her on the team. With a passion for the game, she ignored her coach, and continued playing the game she loved for the next 20 years.
In 2009, Siegal coached for the Brockton Rox of the Can Am League. She is the first female to coach professional men’s baseball and is the only woman currently coaching baseball at the college level.
- A woman’s touch (boston.com)