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

Evelyn Furtsch Ojeda
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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.”

Catching up with Bruce Jenner

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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