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The Unbelievable Comeback Story Of Elizabeth Robinson Schwartz, Olympic Heroine And Accident Victim


The ranks of Olympic gold medalists are filled with inspiring stories of the triumph of the human spirit, but not many can top Olympic heroine Elizabeth "Betty" Schwartz, who essentially came back from the dead to win gold. .

Olympic Dreams Come True

One day in 1928, when Betty Schwartz (then Robinson) was an 18-year-old high school student in Harvey, Illinois, she ran to catch the train after school. His school's track coach was on that train, and he was so impressed by what he saw that he introduced himself as her personal coach, the school didn't have a girls' track team.

A few months later, Schwartz's timing was fast enough to qualify for the upcoming 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Despite having left her with two left shoes until just before the race, Schwartz became the only member of the US women's track team to qualify for the final event, the 100 meters, following a photo finish between Schwartz and Canada. Ended up with Fanny Rosenfeld. Since this was the first year that women's track events were included in the Olympics, Schwartz became the first person to win gold. She later added a silver medal at the Games as a member of the US 4 x 100 m relay team.

1932 Summer Olympic plaque at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.

Sad Fate

Schwartz had previously considered running little more than a hobby, but after winning his gold medal, he began a serious training routine to prepare for the 1932 Olympics. Unfortunately, the summer just before the Games, he made the fatal decision to join his pilot cousin on a short flight to cool off in the Chicago sun. Just outside the city, the engine stalled and the plane crashed to the ground, crushing its passengers.

The first person on the scene took one look at Schwartz and assumed she was dead. She was unresponsive and bleeding from a massive wound on her head, one of her arms was shattered, and one of her legs was broken in three places and badly twisted. She was taken straight to the local undertaker, who realized that she was still breathing. She spent the next 11 weeks in the hospital, where surgeons repaired her broken leg with steel rods and pins, moving her around with the help of crutches, but returning her to nowhere near racing form. After she recovered, her injured leg was half an inch shorter than her other leg, and doctors were sure she would never be able to walk again.

Runners carrying the Olympic flame at the 1936 Games.

Return Child

Shortly after his recovery, Schwartz fell into a deep depression that confined him to his bed, but his brother-in-law persuaded him to go on longer walks with him until he was once again on the block. Wasn't zooming around. With his sights set on the 1936 Olympics, he began training again. She could no longer sprint to the starting block for the sprint, but only the first runner on the relay team was required to do so, so nothing could stop her from competing as a relay runner.

Schwartz's hard work paid off. At the 1936 Olympics, he grabbed the baton as the Americans took the lead over the German team and was instrumental in closing the gap before handing it over to his teammate for the final leg of the race. When one of the German runners tried to change hands, the baton was dropped, the U.S. won the race, earning Schwartz—who a few years earlier found himself on the Undertaker's desk—his second Olympic gold medal.

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