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The Amazing Mildred ‘Babe’ Didrikson

John Simkin

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I have just come across the amazing story of Mildred ‘Babe’ Didrikson. I thought you might be able to use it in some way.

When Didrikson was a teenager she played a wide range of sports. She was especially good at baseball and was therefore nicknamed ‘Babe’ after the great Babe Ruth.

On 16th July, 1932, Didrikson, won five events (80 metres hurdles, shot put, javelin, long jump and baseball throw) at the American Athletic Union Championship (American Olympic Trials). She also tied for first place in the high jump with Jean Shirley. In these events she set four world records. One reporter claimed it was “the most amazing series of performances ever accomplished by any individual, male or female, in track and field history.”

Didrikson had reached the Olympic qualifying standard in five events but the rules restricted her to taking part in only three events in the 1932 Olympic Games.

Her first throw in the javelin was a new world record of 143ft 4in and won her the gold medal. Didrikson followed this with a new world record in the 80 metres hurdles. Like in the Olympic Trials Didrikson shared first place with Jean Shirley. However, the judges ruled that her winning jump was illegal as her western-roll style meant that her head cleared the bar before her body. She was therefore demoted to second place. Soon afterwards, her western-roll style was legalized.

After the Olympic Games in 1932 Didrikson took up golf. She won seventeen tournaments in a row, including the US Women’s Amateur title in 1946. Didrikson then became a professional golfer and lost only once in seven years of competition. Her successful career was brought to an end when she died of cancer in 1956.

(1) Winning the US Women’s Amateur title

(2) Winning the 80 metres hurdles

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