Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda

Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda is first female U.S. Olympic champion to reach 100 years old

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Happy 100th, Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda.

Furtsch Ojeda is the first U.S. female Olympic champion to live to 100, a birthday she marked Thursday and is celebrating all this week in her California home with about 40 friends and family members. She was part of the 4x100m relay team that won gold in world record time at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

“All of a sudden, everybody is making a big event of all these [Olympians] that are 100 years old,” Furtsch Ojeda, who married after the Olympics, said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’ve never thought about it before. I’m basically a family person and very close to all my family, and they’re all very close to me. It’s been a good 100 years.”

James “Babe” Rockefeller is the only other U.S. Olympic champion to reach 100, and Furtsch Ojeda is the eighth oldest living Olympian, according to OlympStats.com. Rockefeller, who passed away in 2004 at 102, won gold in 1924 rowing coxed eights.

Furtsch Ojeda, then 18, ran the second leg for the U.S. in the fourth lane of the 1932 4x100m relay, receiving the baton from Mary Carew and passing it to Annette Rogers. Individual 100m bronze medalist Wilhelmina von Bremen ran anchor, crossing the finish in a then-world record 46.9 or 47 seconds.

Von Bremen, at 6 feet tall, towered nine inches above the anchor for the silver medal-winning Canadian team. Furtsch Ojeda’s family posted race video on YouTube in February. On Wednesday, they found more video in this British highlight reel.

“It’s good memories,” Furtsch Ojeda said. “I’ve enjoyed reliving it, but life goes on.”

How different was track and field back then? Furtsch Ojeda had to dig her own starting block with a trowel in individual races. The gold medal she received was not draped around her neck, because medals then were awarded in boxes and not with ribbons.

Furtsch Ojeda has done a few interviews in recent years, the most comprehensive with garycohenrunning.com in 2012.

Courtesy Tustin Area Historical Society

Based on interviews, book excerpts and Olympic historians, here’s a slice of her competitive history:

The U.S. was in the middle of the Great Depression, so the people of her hometown in Tustin, Calif., went door to door to raise $190 to send her to the Olympic Trials in Chicago.

Furtsch Ojeda was fortunate to make the 1932 U.S. Olympic relay team because she fell in the 100m final at the trials, despite being favored to earn a spot in the individual 100m.

She was surprised to receive a call saying she made the relay pool. Two women who finished ahead of her at the Olympic Trials 100m were not selected for the relay final.

Women and men stayed in different housing at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, but Furtsch Ojeda recalled movie stars such as 1929 Academy Award-winning actress Mary Pickford visiting the quarters.

She vividly remembered the 4x100m relay final, as told to garycohenrunning.com. She said that the four women had never run together before. They practiced baton exchanges during the Olympics at a local high school.

In the final, Carew led off and handed to Furtsch Ojeda:

With the stagger I couldn’t tell if she was leading. Some people said she was and others said she wasn’t. We had a smooth pass and it was remarked after the race that the reason we won was because of all our good passing.

Furtsch Ojeda handed to Rogers:

Yes that was another good pass which, as I said, was the reason we won. I can’t recall if I moved toward the finish line. I think I just finished and watched from there.

Both the U.S. and Canada finished in the same time to the tenth:

It was close and they were side-by-side the whole way. We couldn’t tell who won. The photo finish showed Wilhelmina was just a stride ahead.

Furtsch Ojeda was Olympic teammates with the legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who won the 80m hurdles and javelin and took silver in the high jump in Los Angeles. Furtsch Ojeda has one IMDB credit, doing an interview for the ESPN SportsCentury episode on Zaharias in 2000.

“[Zaharias] was always bragging about herself, saying things like, ‘I am the greatest,'” she told garycohenrunning.com. “She didn’t interact with me personally though she was friends with Mary Carew. She was the star and got all of the publicity.”

Catching up with Bruce Jenner

Katie Ledecky beaten in NCAA Championships individual medley

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Katie Ledecky lost an NCAA Championships race for the first time in eight career finals, taking second in the 400-yard individual medley on Friday.

Stanford teammate Ella Eastin easily beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds and grabbed the American and NCAA records from Ledecky, too. Eastin’s 3:54.60 is 1.93 seconds faster than Ledecky’s time from the Pac-12 Championships last month.

How did she do it?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Eastin said on ESPNU. “I’ve built a lot of endurance this year, and it really showed.”

Eastin is decorated in her own right. She three-peated as NCAA 400-yard IM champion and held the American record in the event before Ledecky lowered it last month.

Eastin would have made the 2017 World Championships team had she not been disqualified for an illegal turn after finishing in second place at nationals.

Ledecky, a sophomore, has never contested the 400m IM at a U.S. Championships, Olympics or world championships, nor did she race the 400-yard IM at 2017 NCAAs. She raced the 400 IM instead of the 200 freestyle on Friday.

All of Ledecky’s races at major meets before Friday were in freestyle events. Her only defeat in a major international meet individual final was the 200m freestyle at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky won five NCAA titles last year and the last two nights anchored the 800-yard freestyle relay and captured the 500-yard freestyle by eight seconds.

Meet results are here.

Later Friday, Lilly King of Indiana three-peated in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking her American and NCAA records and winning in 56.25 seconds. King is also the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, plus the world-record holder.

“Always excited to get the record, but was really hoping to break 56 today,” King said.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford became the second woman after Missy Franklin to break 1:40 in the 200-yard freestyle, winning in 1:39.80. Co-Olympic 100m free champ Simone Manuel of Stanford was third. Comerford and Ledecky tied for the 2017 NCAA 200 free title.

Stanford’s Ally Howe won the 100-yard backstroke in 49.70, one hundredth shy of her NCAA and American records. Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker of Cal-Berkeley was third.

NCAAs conclude Saturday. Ledecky swims the 1,650-yard freestyle. She is the overwhelming favorite, having gone 35 seconds faster than anyone this season.

Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.

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World vault champion out for all of 2018

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Maria Paseka, a two-time world vault champion and four-time Olympic medalist, said she is out for the rest of the year after December back surgery, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Paseka, 22, earned the lone Russian title at worlds in October, repeating as champion on vault by edging American Jade Carey by .084. She handed Simone Biles her only defeat in a 2015 Worlds final, also on vault.

Paseka also took vault silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, as well as helping Russia to team silvers in London and Rio.

As Paseka is sidelined, Russia’s two other recent headliners are on the comeback trail.

Viktoria Komova, the all-around silver medalist at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics who missed Rio due to a back injury, competed in December for the first time since 2015.

Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist with two uneven bars golds, is expected to return to competition this spring from June childbirth.

The world championships are in Doha in October.

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