Evelyn Ashford quietly forged one of the world’s best careers in track and field – if one can quietly win four gold medals and one silver medal while competing in four Olympiads.
In a sport where it is challenging to maintain results over a lengthy career, Ashford made her Olympic debut as a 19-year-old college freshman. Although she did not participate in the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games due to the American boycott, Ashford went to compete in three more Games – and at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, she became the oldest woman ever to win a gold medal in track and field.
Born into a military family, Ashford finally settled in Sacramento, California, where her track career began to take hold. She learned of Wilma Rudolph’s success as a sprinter and set goals to be like Rudolph, becoming a standout at Roseville High School and earning an athletic scholarship to UCLA.
As a 19-year-old, Ashford qualified for the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games, where she finished fifth in the 100-meter dash.
While Ashford moved to the top of the world rankings soon after, she had to wait until the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games to climb atop the Olympic Podium. There, Ashford won gold in the 100-meter dash and again in the 4×100-meter relay, starting a remarkable string of three consecutive gold medals in that event – a feat no other woman has ever accomplished.
Ashford had a daughter, Raina, in 1985, but she soon returned to training. Ashford was selected as the American flag bearer for the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, where in addition to the 4×100 relay gold she also took silver in the 100-meter dash. When Ashford helped the U.S. win gold in the 4×100 relay at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, at 35 years old she became the oldest women to win gold in track and field.