Babe Didrikson Zaharias: Story of an Athlete and Trailblazer

Vintage photograph of Babe Didrikson Zaharias mid-swing on a golf course. She is captured in a dynamic pose, with her golf club raised behind her head, eyes focused on the ball, and feet positioned after a swing. She is wearing a light blue blouse, knee-length white skirt, and white golf shoes. The background shows a well-maintained grassy field with a few trees under a clear sky.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias, 1947

It was 1932, the Great Depression times. High unemployment and poverty affected many Americans. Amidst these struggles, people turned to sports. And one of the most spectacular athletes was a twenty-one-year-old woman from Texas, Babe Didrikson.

That year, Los Angeles hosted the Olympic games. Reprenseting the United States in track and filed, Babe had a dazzling performance. She won gold medals in the javelin throw and the 80-meter hurdles, setting world records in both, and a silver medal in the high jump. She became the first and still the only athlete to win an individual medal in a running, throwing, and jumping competition at an Olympic Games.

That was Babe, a fierce competitor in everything. “I don’t see any point in playing the game if you don’t win, do you?” she would say. Such determination made her arguably the most outstanding athlete, male or female, of the time. Besides the diversity of events she won in track and field, Babe also became a champion golfer in her later years and was a star baseball player in her earlier ones. She was even a sewing champion. Babe seemed to come out victorious from any competition she entered. Fans loved her for that, and Babe showed them much warmth with her open-hearted nature.

Babe was born with the name Mildred Ella Didrikson in 1911 in Port Arthur, Texas. She was the sixth child of Norwegian immigrant parents who moved to the U.S. as adults with three children, settling in Texas. They were a poor but happy family. Babe said about her upbringing,

“I had a wonderful childhood. That must prove that it doesn’t take money to be happy, because the Didriksons sure weren’t rich. My father and mother had to work and scrimp and save like anything just to be able to feed and clothe us all.”

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Note: Click here to read a snapshot biography of another champion runner, Wilma Rudolph.