THE OL’ SWITCHEROO
It’s Friday the 13th A.K.A. Freaky Friday y’all! In honor of the “special” day we’re highlighting some GladiatHers® who have done a switcheroo of their own. They have made the rare decision to try their hands at different sports and done so very successfully. It’s a pretty amazing thing to be a stellar athlete in multiple sports…Kudos to these women!
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Babe Zaharias may have quite possibly been the most interesting woman in the world. Prior to and after a life as a world class athlete, Zaharias was a State Fair winning seamstress, a high school dropout, a singer, a harmonica player, an insurance agent and a Vaudeville performer. In the 1932 Olympics Zaharias won two gold medals (one in the 80m hurdles and one in the javelin) and one silver medal in the high jump. She earned these medals AFTER being an All-American basketball player. While moving from basketball to track and field was a feat in itself, that wasn’t the actual BIG switcheroo for Zaharias. In 1938 after being denied amateur status, Zaharias became a professional golfer, competing in the PGA’s Los Angeles Open; the first woman to ever do such. She would go on to win 41 Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournaments and compete in many other PGA events.
Althea Gibson was the first black athlete to cross the color line in international tennis and the first African-American to win a Grand Slam when she won the French Open in 1956. She went on to win Wimbledon and the U.S. National (the precursor to the U.S. Open) in 1957 and 1958. Before it was all said and done Gibson won 11 Grand Slams and was inducted into the International Tennis and Women’s Sports Halls of Fame. Her role as a barrier breaker didn’t stop at tennis, however. In 1964, at the ripe age of 37 years old, Gibson became the first African-American woman to join the LPGA. Though she never won a tournament, Gibson set many course records and ranked among the Tour’s top 50 earners for 5 years.
Lolo Jones is one of the few athletes to have competed in both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Her first love was track and field. Over the course of her career she racked up three NCAA titles, 11 All-American honors, 3 indoor national titles in the 60 meter hurdles, and 2 World Indoor Championships. After disappointing finishes in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in the 100m hurdles, Jones switched her focus to bobsledding. In 2012, she was named to the US bobsledding team. The next year Jones won gold in the team event at the World Championships. She was then selected for the U.S. Olympic bobsled team and competed in the Sochi Games as the brakewoman for the USA Team-3 sled. While Jones has yet to win an Olympic medal, she has proven that she is an athletic force to be reckoned with.
Elena Delle Donne
Elena Delle Donne is quite possibly one of the most recognizable WNBA basketball players in the world but when she was in high school and college she made her mark as both a basketball AND volleyball player. Delle Donne won a volleyball state championship and was a WBCA and McDonald’s All-American in basketball. Due to personal issues, Delle Donne declined a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Connecticut and walked on the University of Delaware’s volleyball team so that she could remain close to her family. Following a conference winning season with the volleyball team, Delle Donne switched to basketball and hasn’t looked back since. As a basketball player Delle Donne has won WNBA Rookie of the Year, MVP and All-Star honors, just to name a few. Because she’s still fairly early in her career, there’s still lots of time left to see if she switches back to volleyball, but for now, basketball is working out quite nicely.
Tell us below who some of your favorite multiple sport GladiatHers® are; we’d love to hear from you!