of the world’s
first great female athletes, Lillian Copeland capped her
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
at the U.S. Olympic trials and
then ran the lead-off leg on the World
record-setting U.S. 4x110-Yard Relay team
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.