Obituary from the Daily Southtown Friday, May 21, 1999

Elizabeth Robinson Schwartz,
track star, local native, dies at 87

First woman to win
Olympic gold in track
hailed from Riverdale

  CHICAGO (AP) -- Elizabeth Robinson Schwartz, the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track, is dead at age 87. 
     Mrs. Schwartz, who in 1928 won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash in a then-world-record 12.2 seconds, died Tuesday in Colorado. She was suffering from cancer and Alzheimer's disease, according to her son, Rick Schwartz.
   A native of Riverdale, Mrs. Schwartz also won a gold medal in the 400-meter relay during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
   Mrs. Schwartz began her track

and field career at Thornton High School in Harvey. Her biology teacher at the time was on a commuter train when he saw her running to catch the train. Astounded at the girl's speed, he suggested that they start training together, Rick Schwartz said.
   The 100-meter Olympic race in Amsterdam was Mrs. Schwartz's fourth competitive race.
   "I can remember standing in the middle of the field after the race and seeing the American flag raised and hearing the 'Star Spangled Banner' and all the people singing it," Mrs. Schwartz said in a 1988 interview. "Then I walked off the field and just kind of enjoyed the feeling."
   Mrs. Schwartz's track and field career nearly ended in 1931
when she was seriously injured in a plane crash south of Chicago. Doctors said she wouldn't walk, according to her son. She began training again shortly after.
   However, she was no longer able to crouch down for the sprint position. She started running relays instead.
   Mrs. Schwartz retired from track shortly after the 1936 Olympics. She married Richard Schwartz in 1939 and often traveled the country speaking on behalf of the Women's Athletic Association and the Girls' Athletic Association.
   Besides her son, Mrs. Schwartz is also survived by a daughter and three grandchildren. Services will be private.

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October 3, 2000
Updated:
December 19, 2013

Information provided by the Riverdale Historical Society