It is no secret that the sporting world is dominated by men. Almost every “all-time great” that is brought up in conversation is male. Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Pelé, all extraordinary athletes, but none are able to show the young women of today how to move up through the ranks of professional sports. Sure, they can teach important life skills like perseverance, but they just aren’t as relatable to young girls as a woman athlete.
Who do female athletes have to look up to? What about The Babe? No, not Babe Ruth. We’re talking about Babe Didrikson Zaharias – a name that is nowhere near well-known enough. What if we told you there was an athlete that won a national championship in one sport, participated in 7 different Olympic events, then went on to become a hall of famer in another sport? Would you like to hear her story? Well, luckily you don’t need to answer that, because we already have it for you right here:
Growing up in the early 1900s wasn’t the most ideal for a female athlete. Most schools didn’t even offer athletic programs to their female students. For awhile, Babe went with the flow and followed the norms of the time. In junior high school, she won the sewing championship at the South Texas State Fair, and recorded several popular songs as a singer and harmonica player. These things didn’t align with her interests though. Didrikson always just wanted to play sports. So, being the hard-headed individual that she was, she decided to pursue her passion.
Babe dropped out of school to join a semi-professional basketball team. She immediately lead them to a national championship. That was not enough for her. Even though she was voted an All-American that year, she still wanted to take her talents to the next level.
She decided to participate in the 1932 Olympics. Didrikson set two world records (80 M hurdles and javelin), and tied another two (high jump and hurdles once again). It was one of the most dominant Olympic performances of all time. To date, she is still the only track and field athlete, male or female, to win individual Olympic medals in a running, throwing and jumping event.
After her Olympic success, Babe was not feeling challenged, and decided she wanted to become great at something she was terrible at. Enter golf. She was not a good golfer naturally, but that was what she loved about it. It gave her something difficult to accomplish. Didrikson would stay at the golf course for 8-10 hours every single day and hit thousands of balls. She refused to stop doing this until she was the best. That lasted for three years.
In 1938, she competed in the Los Angeles Open – a men’s tournament. No other woman would attempt this for 60+ years following Didrikson. She did not win, in fact she didn’t even make the cut, so she knew it was time to get back to hard work. She did. Following her failure at the LA Open, she trained for several years before competing again. Then once she thought she was ready, in 1945, she successfully qualified for two PGA tournaments (something no woman has accomplished since). She ultimately ended up finishing 42nd and 33rd.
In 1950 the LPGA (Ladies’ Professional Golf Association) was created. That’s when Babe’s dominance really began. In just a five year period, she went on to win 48 professional matches. She was showing no sign of slowing down either, but her career was unfortunately cut short by cancer. She was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1951.
Surprisingly, Babe’s list of accomplishments go on: she pitched 4 innings against professional baseball teams, she competed professionally in billiards, and much more. Regardless of man or woman, she is simply one of the most impressive athletes of all time. Her impact on the sporting world cannot be measured; and every female athlete today can thank her for the stigmas she broke down. Even though her career ended prematurely, Babe will live on forever in athletics – and deservedly so.