Donna de Varona

Swimming

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De Varona was the youngest swimmer to compete in the 1960 Olympics at just 13 years old. During the following Olympic Games Donna earned gold medals in the 400 meter individual medley and as a member of the 400 meter freestyle relay.


Throughout her swimming career, de Varona set 18 swimming records. She retired shortly after the 1964 Olympics. Although she had Olympic success de Varona was unable to obtain a collegiate scholarship for swimming because at that time collegiate scholarships were not available for female athletes. Being that there was a lack of opportunities for females athletes this led her to become a strong advocate for Title IX.

Career Highlights 

  •  Two-time Olympian 
  •  Two-time Olympic gold medalist 
  •  International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame member 
  •  International Swimming Hall of Fame member 
  •  First President of the Women’s Sports Foundation

 

Awards

De Varona has earned the honors to be named the recipient of the 2003 Theodore Roosevelt Award which the highest honor the NCAA gives an individual. She was named a recipient because de Varona is considered a pioneer in female athletics and broadcasting.

Other awards that de Varona has received are the 1964 America’s Outstanding Woman Athlete, San Francisco’s Outstanding Woman of the year and the National Academy of Sports Award.

Professional Work

At the age of 18 de Varona signed a contract with ABC, this made her the first female sportscasters in television history in 1965. Donna was a late night host of both the 1984 Winter Olympics and the 1984 Summer Olympics. De Varona and Jim Lampley anchored the Los Angeles Olympics as a play- by- play for Synchronized swimming and a color analyst for swimming in the women’s category.

De Varona served as a correspondent in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. She is also an activist for the Title IX entitlement program. Most importantly she helped establish the Womens Sports Foundation where she served as the first ever president from 1976 to 1984.

Double Olympic gold medalist Donna De Varona looks on during the Global Sports Forum day 1 on March 10, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by: David Ramos/Getty Images)