Betty Robinson was a 16-year-old student who did not know she was a good runner until a teacher spotted her running after a train and timed her in a corridor back at school.
First women’s track Olympic champion
Robinson competed in her first meet only four months before the 1928 Olympic Games. In her first outdoor meet, she set a world record for 100m. The 1928 100m was the first women's track event to be contested in Olympic history. Robinson won the final by half a metre in what was only her fourth track meet ever. She also earned a silver medal in the 4x100m relay.
Surviving an airplane crash
Three years after her Olympic triumph, Robinson was badly injured in an airplane crash. The man who found her thought she was dead, so he put her in his car trunk and drove her to a mortician. She was unconscious for seven weeks and she could not walk normally for two years…but she did survive. Robinson wanted to return to competitive sprinting, but she was no longer able to bend her leg fully at the knee, so she could not assume the crouched starting position. She could, however, run in relays. In 1936, Betty Robinson won a second gold medal as a member of the U.S. 4x100m relay team.