Alice Coachman: Defying Gravity

Today we present you an informative article on Alice Coachman. 📝

Coachman is known to be the first African American woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal. And for this spot she worked hard her whole life. Her determination and strength to go on even after she faced great obstacles due to racial segregation, made her one of the worlds greatest athletes. Her story is such an important one to share, as she can be an example for everyone: with a strong mind, willpower and a fair amount of talent you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. 🏃🏾‍♀️

Learn more and get inspired by Alice Coachman when you read the article below.

Alice Coachman | *09-11-1923 | † 14-0-2014 | USA | Athlete

American athlete Alice Coachman marked her spot in history as the first African American woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal. Born on November 9, 1923 in Georgia as one of 10 children, Coachman grew up during the time of racial segregation in the American South. This kept her from accessing public sports and training centres, which makes her achievements even more remarkable. What only adds to that is the fact that she grew up in a time when society as well as in her early days her parents did not necessarily encourage women to pursue a career in sports, which illustrates her willpower and perseverance. Before others recognized her potential and supported her athletic career, she trained on her own by running barefoot on dirt roads and practiced high jump with self-made equipment. Encouraged by her aunt and fifth grade teacher, she kept training and a high school coach eventually saw her talent.            

In 1939 she entered the Tuskegee Institute’s high school program through a scholarship. Throughout the 1940s he won numerous national championships and broke records in high jump, races and relays. The Olympic games of 1940 and 1944 had been cancelled because of World War II, making the 1948 Olympics that took place in London her first Olympic competition. Despite a back injury her qualifying high jump of 5 feet and 4 inches broke a previous record. During the competition, another record-breaking result of 5 feet 6 1/8 inches made Coachman the first African American woman to ever win an Olympic gold medal, which King George VI presented to her. In addition, Coachman was the only American woman who won a gold medal during the 1948 Olympics.    

Despite her highly successful athletic career she also got a degree in dressmaking and home economics from Albany State College and Tuskegee. She retired from competing at the age of 25 and coached, taught and founded the Alice Coachman Track and Field Foundation, which supports young, aspiring athletes as well as retired athletes. Her Olympic achievements made her famous back home in the US. She became a Coca-Cola spokesperson in 1952, which made her the first African American woman with such an international product endorsement. Coachman was named one of the 100 greatest Olympic athletes in history and is honoured in multiple Halls of Fame.

The athletic achievements of Alice Coachman are impressive on their own but they become even more extraordinary considering her life’s story and especially the circumstances under which she grew up. Despite racial segregation and being female at a time where it was difficult for women to make it in sports, Alice Coachman’s talent, perseverance and willpower made her a remarkable athlete and a role model for anyone with dreams that might seem out of reach. Her achievements not only led to success for herself, but her actions also opened the door for many female African American athletes following her, as she said herself in a New York Times interview, her success “encouraged the rest of the women to work harder and fight harder.” Alice Coachman and passed away on July 14, 2014. 


Author: Gina Kouter
Image: Marlijn Metzlar

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