The Unbelievable Comeback Story Of Elizabeth Robinson Schwartz, Olympic Heroine And Accident Victim

Betty Robinson, A.K.A. Elizabeth Schwartz, in the 100-meter race at the 1928 Olympic games. (Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

The ranks of Olympic gold medalists are filled with inspirational stories of the triumph of the human spirit, but not many can top that of Elizabeth "Betty" Schwartzan Olympic heroine who essentially came back from the dead to win the gold.

Olympic Dreams Come True

One day in 1928, when Betty Schwartz (then Robinson) was an 18-year-old high school student in Harvey, Illinois, she sprinted to catch a train after school. Her school's track coach happened to be on that train, and he was so impressed by what he saw that he offered himself up as her private coach, the school having no girls' track team.

Just a few months later, Schwartz's times were fast enough to qualify for the upcoming 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Despite a snafu that left her with two left shoes until just before the race, Schwartz became the only member of the U.S. women's track team to qualify for the final event, the 100-meter race, which ended with a photo finish between Schwartz and Canada's Fanny Rosenfeld. As it was the first year the Olympics included women's track events, Schwartz became the first person to win the gold. She added a silver medal later in the games as a member of the American 4 x 100 meters relay team.