Evelyn Ashford (born April 15, 1957 in Shreveport, Louisiana) is an American retired track and field athlete….and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic champion in the 100-meter dash….as she ran under the 11-second barrier over 30 times….becoming the first to run under 11 seconds in an Olympic Games. As a 19-year-old, Ashford finished 5th in the 100 m event at the 1976 Summer Olympics. After beating the World Record holders in the 100 m and 200 m in 1979 at the World Cup of Track and Field in Montreal….she was one of the potential medalists for the 1980 Summer Olympics….but these Games were boycotted by the United States….to which Ashford also tore a quad muscle the May before the Moscow Games….and was out for the rest of the season.
Ashford was ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News over 100 metres in 1979 and 1981…and over 200 metres in 1981. She also was named Track and Field News “Athlete of the Year” twice, in 1981 and 1984….as she would again win the sprint double, at the World Cup of Track and Field in Rome, in 1981. On July 3, 1983, she set her first World Record (be it at altitude) for the 100 metres, running 10.79 seconds at the National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado….and was one of the favorites to win the 100 metre title at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki…..however, she pulled a hamstring muscle and fell….allowing the other main favorite….Marlies Göhr of East Germany (who had already beaten Ashford earlier that year) went on to win.
At the 1984 Summer Olympics….Ashford had a chance to win a gold medals in both the 200m and 100m dashes….however, she had to withdraw from the 200m heats with a minor injury….but was able to compete in the 100m….winning the event in a new Olympic Record of 10.97 secs. As the anchor runner for 4 X 100 m relay team….she won her second gold medal. In the absence of World Champions and world record holders East Germany….the US team clocked one of the fastest times in history….winning by the biggest margin ever at an Olympics, 1.12 seconds.
Evelyn Ashford was the flag bearer for the United States team at the Opening Ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. She was beaten in the 100 m by Florence Griffith Joyner….who had broken her World Record earlier in the season at the Olympic Trials. In the 4 × 100 m relay….she again ran the final leg….winning her third Olympic gold medal despite a sloppy last exchange that meant she had to make up some ground on East Gerrmany’s Göhr. At her last Olympics in Barcelona….at age 35…. Ashford was eliminated in the 100 m semi-finals by 1/100th of a second….but she went on to win her third straight Olympic 4 × 100 m relay gold….this time running 1st leg. She is one of only six women to have won four gold medals in track and field Olympic history.