Evelyn Ashford (born April 15, 1957 in Shreveport, Louisiana) is a retired American athlete, the 1984 Olympic champion in the 100 m. She has run under the 11 second barrier over 30 times and was the first to run under 11 seconds in an Olympic Games.
As a 19-year-old, Ashford finished 5th in the 100 m event at the 1976 Summer Olympics. After beating the World Record holders in the 100 m and 200 m in 1979, Ashford was one of the potential medalists for the 1980 Summer Olympics, but these Games were boycotted by the United States.
Ashford was ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News over 100 metres in 1979 and 1981, and over 200 metres in 1981. She also was named Track and Field News "Athlete of the Year" twice, in 1981 and 1984
On July 3, 1983, she set her first World Record (be it at altitude) for the 100 metres, running 10.79 seconds at the National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado and was one of the favourites to win the 100 metre title at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki. In the final, however, she pulled a hamstring muscle and fell. The other main favourite, Marlies G hr of East Germany (who had already beaten Ashford earlier that year) went on to win.
At the 1984 Summer Olympics, Ashford had a chance to win a gold medal, especially since the East Germans boycotted the Olympics. However, she had to withdraw from the 200 m heats with a minor injury. She competed in the 100 m, winning the event in a new Olympic Record of 10.97 secs. As the anchor runner for 4 X 100 m relay team, she won a second gold medal. In the absence of World Champions and world record holders East Germany, the US team clocked one of the fastest times in history and won by the biggest margin ever at an Olympics, 1.12 seconds.
Later in the season, she finally defeated her main rival G hr at the Weltklasse meeting in Z rich, Switzerland. The race saw Ashford make up half a metre or so over G hr and lower her own World Record to 10.76 secs. See the race on youtube That race proved to be Ashford's personal record. It still ranks as the #8 Individual all-time and was the record that Florence Griffith-Joyner improved upon to set the still standing current world record. Ashford, unsurprisingly, regained her #1 Track & Field News ranking.
At the 1988 Summer Olympics, she was the flag bearer for the United States team at the Opening Ceremony. She was beaten in the 100 m by Florence Griffith Joyner, who had broken her World Record earlier in the season at the Olympic Trials. In the 4 x 100 m relay she again ran the final leg, winning her third Olympic gold medal despite a sloppy last exchange that meant she had to make up some ground on G hr.
At her last Olympics in Barcelona Ashford, aged 35, was eliminated in the 100 m semi-finals by 1/100th of a second; she went on to win her third straight Olympic 4 x 100 m relay gold, this time running 1st leg. She is one of only four women to have won four gold medals in track and field Olympic history.
Ashford twice came back from season ending injuries to reach the top of the sport in the following year. After injury in 1983, she became double Olympic Champion in 1984. In 1987 a hamstring pull prevented her from competing at the World Championships, then a season later added an Olympic Silver and third Gold medal to her collection.
On May 30, 1985 she gave birth to her daughter Raina Ashley Washington, and again came back for an excellent 1986, losing only once over both the 100 m and 200 m and earning another #1 ranking by Track & Field News over the shorter distance.
After parting ways with her coach Pat Connolly (herself a 3-time Olympian) in 1985, Ashford was largely self-coached.
In 1997, Ashford was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, where she is said to be "one of the greatest track and field runners ever." Ashford went to the University of California, Los Angeles and Roseville High School.
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