Alice Coachman (1923-2014) is the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, winning the high jump in the 1948 Olympics in London.
Coachman grew up in Albany, Georgia in a family of 10 children. She didn’t have access to the local facilities, but created ways to train.
“During the segregated days there were track fields, but black people couldn’t use the track field. So I had to run up and down the road and all to train,” she said in an oral history interview. “And before that, I didn’t know anything about track, I just start skippin’ and jumpin’ and playing ball with the boys.”
She also made ropes with them and jumped over them before she joined her high school track team. She eventually participated in the Tuskegee Institute Relays and caught the eye of coach Cleve Abbott.
In 1939, Coachman left Georgia for Tuskegee, Alabama to compete for the Tigerettes on scholarship.
While at Tuskegee, Coachman won 26 national titles and set records during her reign as the national high jump champion from 1939 to 1948.
“I would sometimes win the national AAU in my warm-ups,” she said. “It was nothin’ to me.”
She had a routine, kept a lemon with her as she did for every meet, and competed in multiple track & field events. In 1946, she won the 50 meters, 100 meters, and the high jump in one meet - helping Tuskegee win the championship.
In 1952, she received an endorsement deal from Coca-Cola.
Alice Coachman graduated from Tuskegee in 1946. Eventually, she became a teacher and a coach.
She died in 2014 at the age of 90.
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