It should come as no surprise that Gretel Bergmann could never forget Germany and everything that she had experienced in that country. But what is astonishing is that it was not the loss of a homeland but rather her exclusion from the Olympic Games that led her to complain. She felt she had had been deprived of “the thrill of a lifetime… simply because I was born as a Jew” and this is an indication of the important role sport played in her life.
Lillian Copeland was one of the greatest overall woman athletes in the mid-1920s. Born in New York City on November 25, 1904, she was the daughter of Minnie Drasnin, a housewife, from Grodno, Poland. She was also raised by her stepfather, Abraham Copeland, the manager of a produce company, after the death of her father. She attended Los Angeles High School.
The year 1996 marked the centennial of the modern Olympic Games, and the anticipation of American women’s gold medal triumphs in swimming and diving continued a legacy of athletic excellence linked to the efforts of Jewish American Charlotte Epstein. Referred to as the “Mother of Women’s Swimming in America,” Charlotte Epstein was born to Morris and Sara (Rosenau) Epstein in New York City in September 1884. She demonstrated her love of swimming by influencing U.S. women’s swimming to reach prominence in the 1920s and 1930s. Known as “Eppie” by friends, colleagues, and swimming champions, Epstein started the renowned Women’s Swimming Association of New York, launching the national and international fame of American women swimmers in the early twentieth century.
Ukrainian-born Maria Gorokhovskaya was the top performer among all athletes, both male and female, at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, where, at the "advanced" age of thirty-one, she earned seven medals in the Games' gymnastics competitions.
The daughter of Olympic medalists, water polo champion Dezso Gyarmati and swimmer Eva Szekely, Andrea Gyarmati was born in Budapest, Hungary in May 1954. At the age of twelve she began serious training as a swimmer under her mother’s guidance and competed in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico in three events, reaching the finals in all three.
Born on January 9, 1921 in Budapest, Hungary, Agnes Keleti is the most successful Jewish female athlete in Olympic history. With ten Olympic medals from three Olympic Games, she stands third all-time among women for the most Olympic medals and fourth all-time as an Olympic gold medal winner.
Born in Brooklyn, New York on July 1, 1958, Nancy Lieberman soon moved with her parents, Jerome and Renée, and an older brother, Clifford, to Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens. The parents divorced shortly thereafter, and the mother raised both siblings. Despite her mother’s protests Nancy persisted in playing sports with boys, and took a special interest in basketball. She played daily on the city playgrounds, honing her skills and displaying an aggressive style of play.
A table of Jewish Women who have won Olympic medals.
Fanny “Bobbie” Rosenfeld was named Canada’s woman athlete of the first half- century in 1950. She was a consummate all-round athlete, coach, sports administrator, official, and journalist.
While it was no easy task for women to integrate successfully into the world of modern competitive sports, there is currently a marked increase in the number of competitive women athletes throughout the world. A similar development, though slower and with more modest achievements, has also occurred in Jewish sports.
From the 1890s, despite fierce resistance, German women increasingly participated in gymnastics, games and other sporting activities.
The ways in which females participated in sporting life within both the immigrant and the wider culture reveal how women’s sports activities at times promoted assimilation yet also generated discord within the generational, gender, class and ethnic context of their lives in the United States.
Olympic medalist Eva Szekely was born on April 3, 1927, in Budapest, Hungary. Between 1946 and 1954 Eva Szekely won thirty-two national individual swimming titles and eleven national team titles. In 1954 she gave birth to a daughter, Andrea (Gyarmati), who also became an Olympic medalist swimmer.