Athlete motivation and inspiration!

by Christine on June 24th, 2011

filed under Christine's Life Updates, Exercise

This week my husband told me about this woman, Babe Zaharias, who is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.  Not just the greatest “woman athlete” (why does that always seem like less of an accomplishment than “male athlete?“) but the greatest athlete of all time….including men AND women.

And I was shocked that I had never even heard of this woman! So who is she and why was she so freaking amazing?

  • Babe Zaharias (1911-1956) was an immigrant from Norway.
  • Her nickname “Babe” references Babe Ruth (not from her looks). She was better than most men at baseball and could hit a ball further than most. She had a batting average of over .400.
  • She is widely known for her Olympic records in track and field.   This is amazing: in the 1932 AAU championship Zaharias competed in a track-and-field event as a one-woman team and single-handedly won the team championship with 30 points (the 2nd place team, which had 22 athletes, had only 22 points). That is AMAZING, people! She competed on the 1930s track and field team and won two gold and one silver medals. Women at that time were only allowed to enter three Olympic events at the time, but she broke four world records.
  • Babe is best known for her abilities as a golfer, a sport she didn’t even take up until her 20s. She won 17 straight amateur victories in 1947 (even Tiger Woods can’t claim that). She turned pro in 1948 and won 33 tournaments, including 10 majors and 3 US Opens.
  • She was an amazing basketball player and even won the National Women’s Amateur Athletic Union All-American forward for three years. She often scored 30 or more points per game.
  • In addition to all of the above, she was an expert diver, roller-skater, bowler, tennis player, boxer, volleyball player, swimming, and billiards player.
  • She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1953, and even after undergoing cancer surgery she made a comeback in 1954 and won the US Woman’s Open (golf) championship, just one month after surgery.
  • She was an award-winning seamstress and made a lot of the clothes she competed in.
  • She was a singer and harmonica player and had several records in circulation.

While she was celebrated as an amazing athlete during her day, there were many that refused to recognize her impact on the sports world.

“It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring,” said sportswriter Joe Williams.

I really think Babe Zaharias should be a household name, not just a name that is recognized among real sports afficionados.  That’s some pretty amazing stuff.  Just remember what this woman could do the next time you complain about doing a couple of situps or jogging at the gym!

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