Babe Zaharias, considered by many to be the greatest female athlete of all-time, is one of three recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Donald Trump.
A representative from the Zaharias Foundation received the award on the late athlete’s behalf in a private event Thursday at the White House.
Zaharias was born in Port Arthur in 1911 and was known for her talents in a variety of sports, including golf. She won ten LPGA major championships, two Olympic gold medals, an Olympic silver medal in track and field, and was an All-American basketball player. She also played baseball and was an expert diver, roller-skater and bowler, according to a biography on the foundation’s website. She was eventually named the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The Associated Press.
Zaharias was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953 and became one of the first public figures to openly discuss her illness in an attempt to spread awareness about the disease, the foundation said. She died in 1956 at the age of 44 at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston.
KBMT in Beaumont reports Zaharias Foundation president W.L. Pate had campaigned for nearly two years for Zaharias to be given the award posthumously.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias is my Great Aunt = my grandmother’s (Dora) sister.
When the pandemic is over, I look forward to a trip to Beaumont, Texas and help with the restoration of Babe’s Memorial Golf Tournament.
My Great Aunt Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias breaking the world and Olympic record in the 80 meter hurdles at the 1932 Los Angeles OlympicsWell, it is an Olympic year and the age old debate rears its head again: Can female athletes compete against men?
As a member of the Texas Christian University rifle team, junior Sarah Scherer competes against some of the best female—and male—shooters in the country. But when she competes in the second round of the Olympic trials at Camp Perry, Ohio, this weekend, she’ll only be competing against other women.
Why is that? Is it still unfair for men and women to compete against one another—even in sports where size and strength matter little? Or is it just latent sexism?
Shooting is a sport that certainly requires more brain than brawn. Keen sight, breathing control and trigger squeeze are among the qualities that make an Olympic-caliber shooter. Yet, most shooting competitions remain segregated.
It wasn’t always this way. For decades men and women regularly shot against one another in international competitions. But in 1976, American Margaret Thompson Murdock tied for the gold at the Montreal Olympics in the small-bore rifle against teammate Lanny Bassham. When the judges examined the targets more closely, Bassham was awarded the gold, but Thompson’s performance was enough to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee—primarily from Eastern European teams—to segregate the sport.
Currently, male and female Olympians only compete head-to-head in equestrian and sailing. There are also mixed events in badminton, luge and tennis. But there are clearly other sports where it is apparent that female athletes could compete with the men if they had the opportunity.
Read the entire excellent post.
In my Great Aunt’s day, Babe was restricted even to the number events in which she could compete. Most sports pundits at the time and subsequently have speculated that she could have won more than the three Olympic medals in the mere three events in which she competed.
Representing her company in the 1932 AAU Championships, she competed in eight out of ten events, winning five outright, and tying for first in a sixth. In the process, she set five world records in the javelin throw, 80-meter hurdles, high jump and baseball throw in a single afternoon. Didrikson’s performances were enough to win the team championship, despite her being the only member of her team.
It really is time to open up competition in the Olympics and within reason. I don’t suppose we will be seeing men and women competing against each other in the shot put, boxing or wrestling.
But, in other sports, why not?