An iconic track and field athlete who’s impact on the sport inspired both female and black athletes in her home country which transcended globally, with an historic appearance in the 1948 summer Olympics held in London. Alice Coachman became the first black woman to win an Olympic medal, becoming a gold medalist competing in the high jump event.
Alice was her parents Evelyn and Fred Coachman’s fifth child and didn’t come from a wealthy background, with limited or no support concerning any sporting ambitions. In addition to not being able to access good training facilities in aid of her development due to existent racial segregation in America. During a period which prevented someone who is black from being able to use or share the same amenities as someone white, maintaining a separation of both races. Despite these difficulties, Coachman remained driven, and to ensure she can compete created her own high jump equipment with wooden sticks and ropes. In order to keep her fitness Coachman would often run on dirt roads.
High jump was her primary sport, but over time a natural ability to be good at other track and field events became noticeable. She started her growth by competing in a national competition, winning the 50m, 100m, and 400m relay races. When it came to high jump, Coachman was incredibly gifted and dominated the championship finishing first consecutively for 10 years. The next goal naturally would be to challenge herself at the Olympic games which at first, is thought to be something she wasn’t quite interested but later changed her mind. A successful tryout for the national team ended in smashing existing records for high jump in the National stand.
In 1948 in the London summer Olympics, she rose to the occasion in front of 83,000 people having been declared the winner clearing 5′ 6″ bar on her first jump. It was genuinely mind-blowing, that day was super historic as it marked such an amazing moment for African-Americans. Her Gold medal wasn’t just the first one to be won by a black woman at any Olympic games, and she was also the first American woman to win a Gold medal at the 1948 Olympics. She returned home a hero after receiving her medal from the King.
After the Olympics, she returned to the United States where she completed her college degree at Albany State.
Even though she formally retired, her success at the 1948 Olympics still stood recognised everywhere. She later started the Alice Coachman Track and field foundation, to assist young and upcoming athletes as well as supporting older & retired Olympic veterans.
She received an honorary award in the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta as one of the greatest Olympians in history. She also bagged 9 Hall of Fames, two of which were the Track and field hall of fame given to her in 1975 and 2004, the U.S Olympic hall of fame.