Olympics History >> Los Angeles 1932 >> Key Moments
Los Angeles 1932 - Key Moments
Didriksen, first female star
Thirty two years after the arrival of women in the Olympic arena, the first female star made a shining appearance.
American Mildred Didriksen won three medals - two gold and one silver - taking part in so many events that she easily became the star of Los Angeles. Thanks to her amazing versatility she would later be considered the most complete athlete of this century.
Aged 21 when arriving in California, the tall Texan of Norwegian origin had already established a winning reputation in athletics.
At the beginning of July, her athletics club, "Employers Casualty Insurance Company of Dallas", won the United States interclubs championships, with only one registered member and participant - the young Mildred.
That achievement became all the more poignant when one considers that the club which came second in that competition, the University of Illinois, fielded 22 members.
The haul of medals gathered by the woman nicknamed "Babe", could have been more remarkable had the IOC not put a cap on the number of national athletes in any one event. Consequently, for these Games, she chose to participate in the 80m hurdles, the high jump and the javelin.
Three medals, two world records
In the javelin, her first event, Didriksen only needed one throw (43.68m) to demonstrate her talent, and won the gold, despite the javelin slipping out of her hand at the last moment.
She was immediately successful in the next event, the 80m hurdles, which gave her a world record.
In the first round of the event she equalled the South African, Marjorie Clark's world record (11.8secs), and in the final, after a false start, she set a new world record with a time of 11.7secs, beating American compatriot Evelyne Hall (same time) on the finish line and Clark (11.8secs).
For the ever-energetic Didriksen, the competition ended with a third medal in the high jump. Following first round efforts, she found herself tied with compatriot Jean Shiley (1.65m), and in the process both found themselves establishing new world records.
After a final, pointless deciding jump, Didriksen lost out, with victory going to Shiley, the judges considering the Texan's technique to be illegal, although giving her credit for a "fine performance". According to the judges, Didriksen had jumped head-first.
In 1936, Didriksen's attempts to participate in the Berlin Games were thwarted by the American selection committee - mainly due to the fact that she had been paid as a coach for swimming lessons a few years earlier. But this mattered little to the woman who was a sports fanatic at heart. She responded to the rigid Olympic legislation of the time by joining a men's basketball team.
Years later, she embarked on a highly-successful golf career.
Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.