US sprinter Eve­lyn who smashed 100m world record

Kuwait Times - - Sports -

NEW YORK: On a warm July 1983 day in the Colorado moun­tains, a slen­der Amer­i­can woman lit­er­ally reached the peak of fe­male sprint­ing when she smashed the women’s 100 me­tres world record that Ger­man ath­letes had owned for a decade.

Eve­lyn Ash­ford had beaten Mar­lies Gohr (100m) and Marita Koch (200m) in the 1979 World Cup of Ath­let­ics and now she had Gohr’s 100 me­tres world record.

“I guess you could say I want to have it all,’ Ash­ford said in a 1983 in­ter­view with The New York Times be­fore her record Colorado run of 10.79 sec­onds. In as many ways, she did have it all in a ca­reer loaded with ups and downs.

The Louisiana-born, Cal­i­for­nia-raised sprinter grabbed Olympic gold in the women’s 100 me­tres and 4x100 me­tres re­lay at the 1984 Los An­ge­les Games, be­com­ing the first woman to run un­der 11 sec­onds in an Olympics, and added more gold in the 4x100 re­lay at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

There prob­a­bly could have been more ex­cept for the United States’ boy­cott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Twice, in­clud­ing the Colorado vic­tory, she top­pled the 100 me­tres world record. “When I’m run­ning fast, I feel like I’m weight­less,” Ash­ford told For­tune mag­a­zine in 1991. “It’s like

I’m fly­ing, like I’m not even touch­ing the ground.”

The Colorado tri­umph was ex­tra­or­di­nary be­cause 15 min­utes af­ter Ash­ford’s record run, com­pa­triot Calvin Smith smashed the men’s 100 me­tres world record. Never be­fore had both 100 me­tres records tum­bled on the same day

“She al­ways loved to sew and read, but run­ning was her fa­vorite be­cause she was so good,” her mother Vi­etta once said. Ash­ford’s hero was one of Amer­ica’s great­est sprint­ers, the 1960 triple Olympic gold medal­list Wilma Ran­dolph.

“I was 12 when I first heard about Wilma Ru­dolph, and since I knew I could run I wanted to be like her,” Ash­ford re­called in an in­ter­view. Her quick­ness prompted the Amer­i­can foot­ball coach at her Cal­i­for­nia high school to ask her to chal­lenge his fastest player. Race won, Ash­ford be­came the only fe­male mem­ber of the school’s track team.

Speed and longevity were her trade­marks. From fin­ish­ing fifth in the 100 me­tres at the 1976 Mon­treal Olympic to win­ning gold in the 4x100 me­tres re­lay at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics at age 35, Ash­ford rep­re­sented her coun­try well and the hon­our of be­ing the U.S. flag bearer was be­stowed on her for the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The gold medal­list re­tired in 1992 but con­tin­ued to do Olympic ad­vi­sory work while rais­ing her daugh­ter Rain, who was born in 1985. “This is as close as I need to be to track and field. I am very sat­is­fied with where I left the sport, what I ac­com­plished in the sport,” she told Don Mosley of the Sacra­mento Bee in April 2000. Once in the world spot­light, she has slipped into qui­eter times de­clin­ing a re­quest last week to talk about her golden days. —Reuters

Eve­lyn Ash­ford

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