Evelyn Ashford (born April 15, 1957 in Shreveport, Louisiana) is an American athlete, the 1984 Olympic champion in the 100 m. She has with automatic timing run under the 11 second barrier over 30 times and was 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, Ashford was one of the potential gold medalists for the 1980 Summer Olympics, but these Games were boycotted by the United States.
In 1983, she first set the World Record for the 100 meters at 10.79A seconds in Colorado Springs USA and was favourite to win the 100 meter title at the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki. In the final, however, she pulled a hamstring muscle and fell after winning her semi final, Marlies Gohr went on to win.
At the 1984 Summer Olympics, Ashford finally had a chance to win a gold medal, especially since the East Germans boycotted the Olympics. But Ashford became injured shortly before the Games and had to withdraw from the 200 m heats. She did compete in the 100 m, and with success, winning the event in a new Olympic Record 10.97 secs. As the anchor runner for the relay team, she won a second gold medal. The team clocked one of the fastest times in history and won by the biggest winning margin ever of over a second. Later in the season, she defeated East German Marlies Gohr, her great rival at the Weltklasse meeting in Zurich. In a great race which saw Ashford make up half a metre or so over Gohr she lowered her own World Record to 10.76 secs. She finished this season unsurprisingly as the number one female sprinter in the World, yet again.
At the 1988 Summer Olympics, she was the flag bearer for the United States team at the Opening Ceremony. Unfortunately 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 x 100 m she again ran the final leg, winning her third Olympic gold medal. In spite of a sloppy exchange and being three metres down to the GDR team anchored by Gohr, she cruised to victory with a superb display of anchor leg running.
At her last Olympics, in Barcelona 1992, Ashford was eliminated in the 100 m semi-finals by 1/ 1000th of a second, she went on to win her third straight Olympic 4 x 100 m relay gold, this time running 1st leg. She is one of only four women to have won four gold medals for track and field in Olympic history.
What makes her career even more remakable is twice she came back from season ending injuries to reach the top of the sport in the following year. As stated above, after injury in 1983, she became double Olympic Champion in 1984. In 1987 a hamstring pull prevented her from competing at the World Championships, then a season later added an Olympic Silver and third Gold medal to her collection.
On 30th of May 1985 she gave birth to her daughter Raina Ashley Washington. She again went on 'the comeback' trail following year to have a brilliant 1986 season losing once in the 100 m and 200 m the latter to Valerie Brisco at the Grand Prix final, was her first loss at that event for eight years after 27 final wins.
What is even more extraordinary about these achievements is that after parting ways with her coach Pat Connolly (a former 3 time Olympian), from 1985 she was largely self coached. She managed to prepare herself to near peak fitness for her memorable 1988 season through to the end of her career.
In 1997, Ashford was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, where she is said to be one of the greatest track and field runners ever. Ashford went to the University of California, Los Angeles and Roseville High School.