Mildred Ella "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias (born June 26, 1911 in Port Arthur, Texas; † September 27, 1956 in Galveston, Texas; born Mildred Didrikson, called Babe Zaharias) was a U.S. track and field athlete and golfer.
She competed in the 1932 Olympics and won two gold medals. According to Guinness World Records, she is the most versatile female athlete in history, along with Charlotte Dod.
Mildred Didrikson, daughter of a sailor from Norway who emigrated to the United States, competed in eight different events in a three-hour period at the U.S. Track and Field Championships held in Evanston, Illinois, on July 4, 1932. In the process, she emerged victorious six times.
Didrikson had qualified for all five track and field events at the 1932 Olympics. Due to the statutes, she was only allowed to participate in three of them.
In any case, officials viewed the prodigy, who was unbeatable in throwing and running as a teenager and also excelled as a boxer, tennis player, in baseball and in track and field, with suspicion.
Her ties to professional sports in particular stirred anger, as Didrikson played on the Brooklyn Dodgers men's baseball team, where she was nicknamed "Babe" for her hitting prowess in reference to baseball legend Babe Ruth.
Due to limitations, she chose to compete in the javelin throw (gold medal), 80 meter hurdles (gold medal and world record) and the high jump at the Games.
In the final, however, she jumped 1.657 m, the same height as her teammate Jean Shiley. The jury decided to award Didrikson only second place because of her jumping style (head first, so-called "diving roller").
However, neither Didrikson nor Shiley were satisfied with that. The two women merged their medals and kept a silver-gold alloy as a trophy.
Didrikson also competed in fencing, shooting, tennis, horseback riding and speed skating in addition to track and field and her five other regular sports of baseball, basketball, billiards, bowling and golf.
Seeking new challenges, she soon turned to golf. The effort paid off, as she was soon able to take on the best golfers in the country.
As a professional player, she won the US Open three times. In 1944, she returned her professional license and played as an amateur from then on.
She became the first U.S. American to win the British Ladies Amateur Golf Championship in Gullane, Scotland. In 1947 she won 14 golf tournaments.
In 1951, Zaharias was among the first golfers inducted into the newly created Hall of Fame of Women's Golf. In 1954, already seriously ill, she won her last US Open. She died of cancer in September 1956.
Didrikson was first honored with the Associated Press Sportsman of the Year award in 1932. After she switched to golf, she received the award four more times.
Posthumously, she was inducted into the IAAF Hall of Fame in 2012. Donald Trump awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
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