International Athletics

US Olympic track legend dies

2014-07-15 20:45
Olympics (File)

Washington - Former US athlete Alice Coachman Davis, the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, has died. She was 90.

Davis, an American track and field star who took the top spot in women's high jump at the 1948 London Olympics -- passed away Monday in the southern US state of Georgia after a recent stroke, her daughter told the The New York Times.

A Georgia native who experienced racial segregation firsthand, Davis was inducted into both the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame and the US Olympic Hall of Fame.

She won 10 consecutive US outdoor high jump titles from 1939-1948, the first coming at only age 16 and captured 25 national crowns overall.

Also a sprint star, Davis captured the American outdoor 50m crown from 1943-1947, the US outdoor 100m title in 1942, 1945 and 1946 and the US 50m indoor titles in 1945 and 1946.

At the 1948 Olympics, where King George VI presented her with her medal, Davis set both an Olympic and American high jump record by clearing 1.68 meters.

"Alice literally set the bar with her accomplishments at the 1948 Games, but Olympic champion is only part of the incredible legacy she leaves behind," Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the US Olympic Committee, said in a statement.

"Alice Coachman Davis has inspired generation of athletes to be their best and she will be missed."

Davis was aware of her role as a pioneer and role model for other black women athletes, telling The Times in 1996: "If I had gone to the Games and failed, there wouldn't be anyone to follow in my footsteps."

After retiring from competitive sports, she went on to become a coach and schoolteacher.

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