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1948 Olympics - the women's history

The 1948 Games returned to London, England

After a 12 year hiatus, due to World War II, the Olympics returned to London. Due to the war, these games were known as the “Austerity games” meaning that no new stadiums were built and the athletes did not stay at an Olympic Village. London had also been badly damaged during the war. Because of the war, Germany and Japan were not allowed to compete and Russia chose not to. Women made up 9.5% of all athletes.

Two of the three images below are from vintage trading cards. Alice Coachman, unfortunately, does not have a trading card until 1996.

Below are all the sports that women could compete in in these games.

Diving – US women continued their dominance and won Gold in five of the six medal categories (Gold - Bronze in two events).

Swimming – 100m, 200m, 4 x 100m relay - women swam no further than the 200 meters and only in freestyle, backstroke, and breaststroke - no butterfly.

Track and Field – Enter Fanny Blankers-Koen (Netherlands). At 30 years old, she won an unprecedented four gold medals (100m - 11.9 sec, 200m - 24.4 sec, 80m hurdles - 11.2 sec, and the 4 x 100 relay - 47.5 sec). Not only was that outstanding but she was also a mother of two and at the time, most people didn't think you could be an outstanding athlete and mother simultaneously. Her success challenged that notion. Her Olympic history could have been much greater had she been able to compete in the games that were cancelled (her Olympic debut was in the '36 Games). As with swimming, the maximum distance that women can run is 200m.

Picture is from a 1948 trading card.

In high jump, American Alice Coachman becomes the first black woman to win an Olympic Gold medal. Her winning jump also tied the world record (5’ 6.5”) Notably, she was the only American to win a Gold medal in track and field. She beat a lot of odds in doing so: she was black (the 1940's were highly racist times in the US), shewas poor (she tied cloth items together to create a 'bar' to train), and these were the days where high jumpers used the scissor kick (not the Frosby Flop) and jumped into a pit of sand. A short video of her jumping at the Olympics is shown below.

Coachman is shown below on the medal stand and jumping before the Olympics. She could fly!

Fencing – Hungarian Llona Elek continued her dominance by winning Gold at the age of 41. Elek is considered one of the best female fencers ever.

From a 1936 German trading card.

Gymnastics – the only event women could compete in remain the all-around where Czechoslovakia won Gold and the US won Bronze.

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