1984 Olympics: marathon, USA
Joan Benoit Samuelson won the 1984 women's marathon, the first time the sport was included for women in a modern Olympics.
1984 Olympics: swimming, USA
Tracy Caulkins was the first American to set an American record and win an American title in each of four swimming strokes (breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke, freestyle). The 1980 Olympics, which the USA boycotted, was likely at the height of her performance, but she persisted and came back in 1984 to win two individual gold medals and one gold for a relay. She also met her future husband at that Olympics, Australian swimmer, Mark Stockwell.
Alice CoachmanNovember 29, 1923 -
1948 Olympics: Track and Field, USA
Alice Coachman was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event.
1976, 1980 Olympics: gymnastics, Romania
Nadia Comaneci was the first woman gymnast to score a perfect 10 score in Olympic competition. She earned a total of seven perfect 10 scores and three individual gold medals and a silver for team competition in the 1976 Olympics. After winning four medals in 1980, she retired from amateur athletics in 1989, and escaped Romania to the United States in 1989. In 1996, she married Bart Conner, a US competitor in gymnastics at the 1976 Olympics.
1932 Olympics: Track and Field, USA
Considered the best female athlete of her time, Babe Didrikson became a charter member of the US Olympic Hall of Fame posthumously in 1983. She was named "Female Athlete of the Year" by the Associated Press in 1932, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, and 1954. In 1949 Babe Didrikson Zaharias became one of the founding members of the Ladies' Professional Golf Association.
1984, 1988, 1992 Olympics: tennis, Germany
Following a long reign by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova at the top in women's tennis, Steffi Graf moved into that top spot in 1987. She began playing tennis at age three, with her father as teacher and coach. In 1984, she won an Olympic gold medal. She won the Grand Slam of tennis in 1988 (winning the Australian, French, and U.S. Opens plus Wimbledon), and in 1988 won another Olympic gold medal. In 1992, Jennifer Capriati beat Graf for the gold medal at the Olympics. In her lifetime, she won three Grand Slams and 21 Grand Slam tournaments, the latter beating Evert and Navratilova, but not quite matching Margaret Court's 24.
1988 Olympics: track and field, USA
Florence Griffith Joyner dazzled world at the 1988 Olympics with her long hair and fingernails, attractive running outfits which she designed, and big smile -- and gold medal wins in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 4x100 meter relay, plus a silver. Flo-Jo almost won a place on the 1980 Olympic team. She married 1984 Olympic gold medal triple jumper Al Joyner in 1987, Jackie Joyner-Kersee's brother. She was rumored to have taken steroids, but passed drug tests and denied using drugs. She retired from sports in 1989, appearing as an actress, making a fitness video, and writing children's books. She died after a heart seizure in 1998.
1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 Olympics: Track and Field, USA
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is considered by many to be the best all-around female athlete in the world. She won medals in 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996 Olympics.
1972, 1976 Olympics: Gymnastics, USSR (Soviet Union)
Olga Korbut, replacing an injured gymnast to represent the Soviet Union in 1972, helped her gymnastics team to a gold medal. In her individual participation, she quite publicly fell apart, then recovered, capturing the heart of the world, even being named Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in the United States. She toured the US after the 1972 Olympics, helping to spark a large increase in the number of children learning gymnastics. In 1976, she again helped her team to the gold, and won a silver in the balance beam. She moved to the United States in 1991.