Elizabeth ("Betty") Robinson (August 23, 1911 – May 18, 1999), later Elizabeth R. Schwartz was an American athlete and winner of the first Olympic 100 m for women.
Robinson ran her first 100 meter race on March 30, aged 16. She finished second only to the American record holder. At her next race, she equalled the world record, though her time was not recognised.
At the Amsterdam Olympics, her fourth 100 m competition, Robinson reached the final and won, equalling the world record. She was the inaugural Olympic champion in the event, since athletics for women had not been on the program before, and its inclusion was in fact still heavily disputed among officials. With the American 4 x 100 meters relay team, Robinson added a silver medal to her record.
In 1931, Robinson was involved in a plane crash, and was severely injured. A man who discovered her in a coma in the wreckage wrongly thought she was dead, put her in his car boot and drove her to an undertaker, where his mistake was discovered. She awoke from the coma seven months later, although it was another six months before she could get out of a wheelchair, and two years before she could walk normally again. Meanwhile, she missed the 1932 Olympics in her home country.
Still unable to kneel for a normal 100 m start, Robinson was a part of the US relay team at the 1936 Summer Olympics. The US team was running behind the heavily favored Germans, but the Germans dropped the baton, allowing Robinson (who handed off the baton to Helen Stephens) to win her second Olympic title.
Retiring after the Berlin Olympics, Betty Robinson remained involved in athletics as an official. Betty R. Schwartz died aged 87, suffering from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1928: Betty Robinson (USA) • 1932: Stanisława Walasiewicz (POL) • 1936: Helen Stephens (USA) • 1948: Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED) • 1952: Marjorie Jackson (AUS) • 1956: Betty Cuthbert (AUS) • 1960: Wilma Rudolph (USA) • 1964: Wyomia Tyus (USA) • 1968: Wyomia Tyus (USA) • 1972: Renate Stecher (GDR) • 1976: Annegret Richter (FRG) • 1980: Lyudmila Kondratyeva (URS) • 1984: Evelyn Ashford (USA) • 1988: Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA) • 1992: Gail Devers (USA) • 1996: Gail Devers (USA) • 2000: Vacant • 2004: Yulia Nestsiarenka (BLR) • 2008: Shelly-Ann Fraser (JAM)
Full article ▸