The images of two pioneering women Olympians have been enshrined on plaques at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor. Joan Benoit Samuelson, winner of the first women’s Olympic Marathon, and Anita L. DeFrantz, Olympic medalist for rowing and International Olympic Committee member, are only the second and third individual women athletes since 1932 to be memorialized this way.
“The Coliseum Court of Honor welcomes two extraordinary athletes who exemplify the Olympic spirit and paved the way for women to excel in sports at the highest level,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas during the ceremony, co-sponsored by his office. “We celebrate Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz for their achievements as Olympians and as female role models.”
After unveiling the plaque, DeFrantz said, “We all know that women’s sport historically has been underreported. I’m thrilled that women’s accomplishments will be celebrated at the Coliseum with these plaques.”
Nearly 60 plaques have been installed at the Court of Honor since 1932. Until now, the only individual female athlete commemorated was Babe Didrikson, and her plaque was installed in 1961. LA84 Foundation President and CEO Renata Simril led the effort to bestow similar honors on both Samuelson and DeFrantz.
“Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita DeFrantz showed girls across the world how a sporting dream can spring into reality, and inspire our work every day to keep closing the gender gap in sports,” Simril said, adding the pioneering athletes’ contributions on and off the field are “nothing short of transcendent.”
With the goal of leveling the playing field so that sport is accessible to all children, LA84 supports thousands of Southern California youth sports organizations through grant making, while also training coaches, commissioning research, convening conferences and acting as a national thought leader on important youth sports issues.
Joan Benoit Samuelson became the first woman to win the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 1984. In 2009 she was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame. Currently, she serves as a consultant to Nike and as a clinician.