Football coaches are remembered for a long time, think Pop Warner, Knute Rockne, Red Blaik or Paul Brown. Whereas world class track athletes have a much shorter time for instant name recognition. But it should not be forgotten that Rockne hired on at Notre Dame as a track coach and was there several years before becoming the football coach. He is also credited with elevating the Drake Relays by bringing his track teams there made up of many of the well known football players thus helping attract major crowds to the meet. Most of our readers hear the name Wilma Rudolph and their minds quickly go back to Rome, 1960 and see Wilma outclassing everyone in the 100, 200, and 4x100. But if you ask your children or grandchildren if they ever heard of Wilma, you get the 1000 yard stare. Or, "Wilma? Was she in the Flintstones?"
Well, here's one for you old timers. Betty Robinson. No she wasn't Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate" Football coach John Robinson's wife? Guess again, lads. It's Betty Robinson, 1928 Olympic 100 meters champion. If you got that one right you get an extra deduction on your income tax this year.
Betty Robinson was born in 1911 in Riverdale, IL about 14 miles south of Chicago. A high school track coach recognized her ability running to catch a train. And four months later he had the 16 year old running in the 1928 Olympics.
|Robinson Winning the 100 meters Amsterdam 1928|
|Cook Winning Anchoring the 4x100 in Front of Robinson|
Robinson won the 100 in 12.2 defeating Fanny Rosenfeld of Canada and breaking the World Record. The favorite, Myrtle Cook of Canada DQ'd at the starting line. Cook would later hold off Robinson on the anchor of the 4x100 to give Canada the gold over the US. I knew this only because we mentioned this race in a recent posting about the Canadian runner Diane Palmason who was coached by Cook.
The remarkable part of Robinson's story is the comeback she made after being severely injured in an airplane accident. She and her cousin, a pilot , went up in a biplane to cool off on a hot summer day and crashed into a farm field. A witness to the crash pulled two bodies out of the wreckage and thinking they were both dead, threw them into the trunk of his car and hauled them to the local undertaker. This guy obviously had not been to medical school, because it turned out that they were both stlll alive and breathing though unconscious.
Robinson recovered from her injuries, but with a pin put into one of her legs, she was unable to get into a starting crouch to run the sprints. Nevertheless she resumed training after four months but failed to make the team for the 1932 games is Los Angeles.
Annette Rogers, Helen Stephens, Harriet Bland, and Betty Robinson
Stephens set the WR in the 100 at 11.6 which held up until Wilma Rudolph broke it at Rome
Robinson didn't give up, and in a legendary comeback qualified to run the relay in the 1936 Olympics. She ran the third leg and handed off to Helen Stephens. The favored Germans bungled their last exchange, and the Americans won. So almost 8 years after surviving that plane crash, she came home a winner once more. However Jesse Owens' four golds overshadowed everyone else on the team, and she was soon just a statistic in track and field. Fame is fleeting and Betty Robinson was prima facie evidence of that belief. She died in 1999. There was a 2014 biography written about her by Joe Gergen, The First Lady of Olympic Track.
Recently the following comment came in from Joe Faust. We're posting it here, because it would only appear on four year old posting. Joe mentions what he is up to these days.
Age 74: Designing busable short pack apparatus for standards, bars, and a landing apparatus. Still jumping in back yard. Watch-and-see Stage Zero CLL, City of Hope. Aiming for some masters HJ efforts in spring of 2017. Some email contact recently with Gene Zubrinsky https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Zubrinsky
Okay, I know you are asking , why did they even mention football on this track blog? Ans. It was just to put these following utterances from the football world on here for some levity. This may or may not be our last posting of the year. If it is, it has been another fun year, and we plan to keep chugging along for another twelve months. Best to all of you for 2017.
George Roy and Steve