Betty Robinson

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Betty Robinson
Betty Robinson.jpg
Betty Robinson in 1931
Personal information
Born August 23, 1911
Riverdale, Illinois, United States
Died May 18, 1999 (aged 87)
Denver, Colorado, United States
Height 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in)
Weight 57 kg (126 lb)
Sport Athletics
Club ICCW, Chicago

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.

Born in Riverdale, Illinois, 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 recognized.[1]

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 4×100 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 trunk 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.[2] Meanwhile, she missed the 1932 Summer 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.[3][4]

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 in Denver, Colorado.


  1. ^ Joe Gergen (2014) First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson, Northwestern University Press, ISBN 0810129582, p. 12.
  2. ^ "Joy of Six: great Olympic moments". The Guardian (London). January 8, 2013. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ Joe Gergen (2014) First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson, Northwestern University Press, ISBN 0810129582, pp. 146–47.
  4. ^ Betty Robinson.

Preceded by
Kinue Hitomi
Women's 100 m world record holder
June 2, 1928 – June 5, 1932
Succeeded by
Tollien Schuurman