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Friday, July 27, 2012

BABE DIDRIKSON'S OLYMPICS & HER TRAIN RIDE TO INFAMY


It’s quite a thrill to be doing research for a book about BABE DIDRIKSON ZAHARIAS when there’s an OLYMPIAD going on. 

A lot has changed for women athletes in 80 years and Babe led the way.

When Babe Didrikson went to the Olympics in 1932, it was just two days after she’d traveled to Evanston, Illinois to become a one-woman wrecking crew at the National Women’s Track and Field Championships. Babe tallied more points on her own than any team who competed,  smashing records in javelin and hurdles, to baseball-throw. Babe also made her afternoon victories in the 100-degree heat look easy, (it was so hot, competitors took turns sitting on an ice block), but Babe was a whirlwind of energy and speed, running from one event to the next and easily winning the championship. Within 48 hours of her victories and as a newly-minted member of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team, Babe and her teammates left Chicago’s Union Station bound for California.

Traveling in their own Pullman car, the train journey was considered a luxury and many had never been in a “sleeper” car before. During the five day trip, Babe was said to have driven the other girls crazy with her talk of winning. While the others politely played cards and acted modest about any potential victories, Babe ran sprints up and down the passenger car and playing the harmonica while the others were trying to sleep. 

When they arrived in Los Angeles a week before the Olympics, the women stayed at a hotel since the Olympic Village only permitted male athletes.

 
Babe competing in the javelin throw in the 1932 Olympics

It was also just the second time in Olympic history that track and field events were open to women competitors, and they could only enter a maximum of three. There were still detractors (many of them sportswriters) who believed that women couldn’t physically handle competitive sports, and that it compromised their ability to have children.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT BABE AND HER OLYMPIC EXPERIENCE IN MY NEXT BLOG POST.

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