Alice Coachman, a track and field star and the first black woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics, died Monday at age 90 near her home in Albany, Georgia. She won her gold medal in the high jump at the 1948 summer Olympics in London.
"Alice literally set the bar with her accomplishments at the 1948 Games, but Olympic champion is only part of the incredible legacy she leaves behind," United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement, Reuters reported.
"Alice Coachman Davis has inspired generations of athletes to be their best and she will be missed," Blackmun said.
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Coachman, who was born in Albany in 1923, the fifth of 10 children, took an interest in high jump after watching a boys track meet and trained herself in the sport using home-made equipment, according to a biography issued by Albany State.
The university said Coachman was denied access to public training facilities because of segregation but worked herself into competitive shape, in part by running barefoot on dirt roads.
After the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were canceled due to World War Two, Coachman was able to compete in the Olympics for the first time in 1948 and won the gold medal by setting a record for the high jump.
She won a total of 34 national titles, was inducted into nine halls of fame and became the first black woman to endorse an international product when Coca-Cola signed her as a spokeswoman in 1954, according to Albany State.
She married Frank Davis and was the mother of two children.
"Although she will sorely be missed, her achievements outside the fields of competition are on par with the great accomplishments within the athletics lines," the university's athletic director, Richard Williams, told the Albany Herald newspaper.
"We will continue to honor her legacy within the athletic department at Albany State University," Williams said.
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