Racing Back Through Time:
First Female Gold Medalist Comes Home
Chicago Tribune - September 27, 1992
by Martin Zabell

Betty Robinson with Riverdale Mayor Ed Kipley Jr.

   Riverdale raced back through time in more ways than one last weekend.
   First, the southwest suburb celebrated its centennial with a picnic at Riverdale Park, 137th Street and Wentworth Avenue. Then, the village honored a former resident who brought it worldwide attention 1928.
   Betty Robinson Schwartz, 80, mad history in Amsterdam when she became the first American woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal and the first woman in the world to win an Olympic medal in track and field. The "fastest woman in the world" triumphed in the 100-meter run while she was a 16-year-old student living in Riverdale and attending Thornton Township High in Harvey.
   In 1931, Schwartz suffered a broken leg in an airplane accident, but she battled back to win a gold medal in the women's 400-meter relay at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. She moved to Chicago after getting married in 1939 and just recently moved from Chicago to Orlando.
   About 100 people, including many of her childhood friends, were on hand when she came back to Riverdale last weekend. The Olympic anthem was played as she became the first person to receive a commemorative plaque from Riverdale. She choked back tears while she expressed her gratitude to her birthplace.
   "I'll always be thankful I was born a runner," she said as she related how she entered official competitions after Thornton Township High's track coach saw her running after a train and invited her out for the girls' team.
   "She'd beat all the guys," said Tom Kinney, 79, who raced her on the playgrounds as a child. "Nobody could catch her."
   Ed Kipley Sr., former mayor of Riverdale and the father of current Mayor Ed Jr., remembers training with her in 1928, when they were both high school athletes.
   "She was beautiful, friendly, and very competitive," he said. "Some of the neighbors though she was a tomboy, but nobody ever said that to her face."

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