Alice Coachman

Alice Coachman, first black woman to win Olympic gold, passes away

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Alice Coachman, the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, died at age 90 in Albany, Ga., on Monday morning.

Coachman, the 1948 Olympic high jump champion, suffered a stroke in April and died at an Albany hospital, according to Albany’s NBC affiliate.

Coachman won the first of her 10 straight national titles at age 16 in 1939, according to USA Track and Field, but missed the 1940 and 1944 Olympics due to World War II.

“In 1944, I was really ready,” Coachman told The Associated Press in 1996. “I had won the 50-yard dash in the national AAU six consecutive years and the 200 two years straight. I was right at my peak in 1944. I could have won at least two gold medals there.”

Her only Olympic appearance came in London in 1948, when she won gold with an Olympic record jump of 5 feet, 6 1/4 inches before the Fosbury Flop was introduced. King George VI presented the gold medal to her. She made it to and from London by ship.

“Many times I’ve been to places where I’ll tell them I was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, and they’ll look at me like I’m crazy,” Coachman told the AP. “They’ll say, ‘You won it? No, you didn’t win it. It was that other girl who won it.'”

Coachman referred to Wilma Rudolph, who won triple sprint gold at the Rome 1960 Olympics.

Coachman, one of 10 children, grew up in Georgia during segregation and broke high school and college high jump records without wearing shoes, according to the AP. Her lucky charms were lemons. She sucked on them in competitions when her mouth ran dry.

She returned home from the London Olympics to a segregated victory ceremony, with blacks and whites on separate sides of the building. The white mayor would not shake her hand.

In 1952, Coca-Cola made her the first black female athlete to endorse an international product. She said she made $500.

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Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban