Betty Robinson

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Betty Robinson
Betty Robinson 2.jpg
Personal information
Born August 23, 1911
Riverdale, Illinois, U.S.[1]
Died May 18, 1999(1999-05-18) (aged 87)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.[1]
Height 5 ft 5 12 in (166 cm)
Weight 126 lb (57 kg)
Sport Athletics
Event(s) Sprint
Club ICCW, Chicago[1]
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 60 m – 5.8 (1929)
100 m – 12.0 (1928)
200 m – 25.5 (1931)[2]

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.[1]

Robinson was born in Riverdale, Illinois, and was a student at Thornton Township High School when she achieved national acclaim as an Olympic champion. Robinson ran her first official race on March 30, 1928, at the age of 16, an indoor meet where she finished second to Helen Filkey in the 60-yard dash.[3] At her next race, outdoors at 100 meters, she equalled the world record, though her time was not recognized.[4]

At the Amsterdam Olympics, her third 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.[5] 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 gold medal.[6][1]

Retiring after the Berlin Olympics, Schwartz remained involved in athletics as an official.[1] She died aged 87, suffering from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Betty Robinson.
  2. ^ Elizabeth Robinson.
  3. ^ Eric L. Cowe (2005) Early Women's Athletics: Statistics and History, Volume Two, privately printed, ISBN 9780953703005, p. 69.
  4. ^ Joe Gergen (2014) First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson, Northwestern University Press, ISBN 0810129582, p. 12.
  5. ^ "Joy of Six: great Olympic moments". The Guardian. London. January 8, 2013. ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ Joe Gergen (2014) First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson, Northwestern University Press, ISBN 0810129582, pp. 146–47.

Further reading[edit]

Gergen, Joe. (2014) First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson. Northwestern University Press.
Montillo, Roseanne. Phenomenon: Betty Robinson and the Victory of the First Olympic Women. Crown.

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