Where to even begin with Dana Vollmer? Not only is she one of the best swimmers in the world, she's been in the elite ranks since she was a pre-teen. That's right: Vollmer was 12 (!) when she competed in the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials. The Texas native failed to make the team that year but, as usual, she moved fast: she won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics as part of the 4x200 freestyle relay team that broke a world record that had stood for seventeen years.It is not, however, all smooth sailing (smooth swimming?) for Vollmer. In 2003--the year before she would win her gold medal--Vollmer had heart surgery for a medical condition that nearly kept her out of the pool for good.
So, I was tooling around the Interwebs the other day trying to find some old-school ladies' sports footage for that last blog piece, and I stumbled upon some pretty sweet YouTubery—the site is loaded with tons of amazing bits of video that relates to women and sports. I ended up spending the last two days hovered over my laptop trolling through dozens of old newsreels, current news bits, interviews, play-by-play excerpts, and pretty much everything else you could think of, and I found plenty of stuff to pass on, some of it inspiring, some of it totally depressing, but all of it fascinating.
So, kicking things off is the old newsreel obituary for the great Babe Didrikson, who may be the best female athlete to ever live. She died of cancer at the age of 42, after basically kicking ass her entire life. Here's how ESPN describes her:
The first to prove a girl could be a stud athlete, Babe Didrikson began as a muscular phenom who mastered many sports and ended as a brilliant golfer. An exuberant tomboy whose life was athletics, she was accomplished in just about every sport - basketball, track, golf, baseball, tennis, swimming, diving, boxing, volleyball, handball, bowling, billiards, skating and cycling. When asked if there was anything she didn't play, she said, "Yeah, dolls."