Last NameSportCountryYear Inducted

Sport: Track and Field
Inducted: 1979
Country: United States
Born: November 25, 1905 in New York, New York
Died: July 7, 1964

One of the world’s first great female athletes, Lillian Copeland capped her extraordinary track and field career in 1932 with an Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles in the Discus, establishing a
World record of 133'2" (40.58 meters). Four years earlier, at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games—the first Olympics to include women’s track and field—Copeland set a world record of 121'8" (37.08 meters) en route to winning a silver medal in the Discus event.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, Copeland, who excelled at tennis and basketball, won every women’s track and field event she entered. She captured
the first of her nine U.S. National Championships in 1925 with a victory in the 8-Pound Shot Put. A year later, Copeland established herself as one of the world’s premier women athletes when she won a trio of U.S. titles—the Shotput, Discus, and Javelin. Her victories
in the Javelin at 112'5.5" (34.28 meters) and Discus at 101'1" (30.81 meters) set new World records. In 1927, she lengthened her World Javelin mark to 125'8.5" (38.32 meters) and in 1928, upped the World Shotput record to 40'4.25" (12.30 meters). Between 1925 and 1932, Copeland set six World records, each, in the
Shotput, Javelin, and Discus.

Disappointed that her favorite event, the Shot Put, was not included on 1928 Women’s Olympic Program, Copeland instead entered the Discus event. The onetime USC phenomenon set a World Discus record of 115'8.5" at the U.S. Olympic trials and
then ran the lead-off leg on the World record-setting U.S. 4x110-Yard Relay team (50.0).

In 1935, Copeland was a member of the U.S. contingent that competed in the second Maccabiah Games. To no one’s surprise, she captured gold medals in each of her specialty events. Copeland prepared to defend her Olympic Discus championship at the 1936 Games in Berlin, but in the heat of an American movement to boycott Hitler’s Games, Copeland was one of many U.S. athletes who chose not to compete in Nazi Germany.

It should be noted that Copeland minimalized broader career success in track and field when she opted to attend University of Southern California Law School from 1928 to 1932. Following the 1932 Olympics, she served 24 years as a juvenile officer for the
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

In 1994, she was inducted into the U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame.


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