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There were a great number of excellent female athletes in the 20th century None of the athletes in history have ever accomplished more than Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Jackie Joyner-Kersee Steptoe 139 Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Jackie Joyner-Kersee were both exceptionally talented athletes who excelled in many different sports were considered one of Americas greatest athletes at one time and both were faced with health problems along the way Mildred Babe Zaharias was born in Port Arthur Texas on June 26 1914 died September 27 1956 and is considered the greatest athlete of the first half century Steptoe 145 Her first major athletic achievement occurred when she was 16 years old and was named an All-American high school basketball player of the year Thompson 30 She went on to international fame in track and field where she won several US titles a gold medal in the javelin and 80 meter hurdles and a silver in high jump in the 1932 Olympic Games Zaharias became a professional golfer in 1948 after doing an excellent job as an amateur That year she took the US Womens Open Title which she won again in 1950 and 1954 Zaharias was the Associated Press Woman Athlete in 1932 1945-47 1950 and 1954 Steptoe 190 In the spring of 1953 doctors discovered she had cancer resulting in radical surgery which caused her to win the Ben Hogan Comeback of the Year Award Jacqueline Joyner-Kersee born in East St Louis on March 3 1962 is considered the Greatest Athlete of the late 20th century Jackie Joyner-Kersee 2 She first gained national attention by winning four straight National Junior Pentathlon Championships She won the Sullivan Award in 1986 and set the heptathlon world record at the 1988 Olympics In her 1992 victory she became the first winner of back-to-back gold medals in that event Steptoe 109 In the 1994 Pan-African Games Joyner-Kersee won 2 the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 131
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