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.

source:
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.”

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Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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World Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

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Volosozhar and Trankov couldn’t do it. Neither did Shen and Zhao. Nor Gordeeva and Grinkov.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford can win a third straight pairs world title next week, a feat not seen since Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev of the Soviet Union won six in a row from 1973 through 1978.

But they don’t feel like favorites.

“We’re coming in a little more under the radar,” Radford said.

They lost their two most recent international competitions — third at the Grand Prix Final in December; second at the Four Continents Championships in February.

Duhamel and Radford are seeded fifth by best international scores this season going into the world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

“Sometimes it feels like worlds last year was so long ago,” Radford said.

Last year in Boston, Duhamel and Radford had the performance of their seven-year partnership in the world championships free skate. They tallied a personal-best 153.81 points, more than seven points clear of their previous best.

It was easily enough to overtake Chinese short-program leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were relegated to silver behind the Canadians for a second straight year.

This season, Duhamel and Radford haven’t come within 13 points of their 2016 World Championships total. Duhamel went through “an unforeseeable circumstance” in her personal life in November that she chooses not to reveal.

They implemented the throw triple Axel, but Duhamel fell three times in a four-event stretch this fall. They lost by nearly 13 points at December’s Grand Prix Final, which ended with a Duhamel backstage meltdown.

“We never fell like that at home [in practice],” Duhamel said on the IceTalk podcast. “It started to shake us up a little bit.”

They replaced the throw triple Axel in their program. Without it in February, both skaters had trouble with jumps at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue and finished nearly 13 points behind Sui and Han.

“We kind of went back to square one, to the drawing board after Four Continents, reassessing what’s gone on this season, why are we underperforming, why are we not succeeding in competition the way we are training,” Duhamel said.

They made program changes, notably on their throw and jump entrances and overhauling the footwork in their short program.

Duhamel adopted a rescue dog from South Korea. Radford, who had surgery over the summer to remove a cyst from his ankle bone, leaned on a sports psychologist.

“I personally feel a lot more relaxed and seemless,” Radford said. “That feeling has come a little bit later this season.”

Five pairs could take gold in Helsinki in perhaps the most wide-open event.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and (French-born) Bruno Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament. They returned to take silver at the European Championships in January with the best score of their two-year partnership.

Young Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov stepped up to win the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, and then the European Championships. But free-skate struggles have dogged them this season.

Another Russian pair, Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are perhaps the biggest wild card. They missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury, but then beat Tarasova and Morozov in their season debut at the Russian Championships. Stolbova fell on their throw triple flip in both programs at the European Championships in January, and they finished fourth.

Then there are Sui and Han, looking to break through for a first senior world title in their sixth try (though Sui is just 21 years old, and Han 24). They missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at Four Continents and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

U.S. pairs Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim and Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have both missed significant time due to injury in the last two years. They are behind the top pairs from Canada, China and Russia.

The U.S. hasn’t put a pair in the world championships top five since 2006, and that doesn’t figure to change next week.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.