About Helen Herring Stephens
Helen Herring Stephens (February 3, 1918 – January 17, 1994) was an American athlete, a double Olympic champion in 1936.
Stephens, nicknamed the 'Fulton Flash' after her birthplace Fulton, Missouri, was a strong athlete in sprint events - she never lost a race in her entire career - but also in weight events like the shot put and discus throw, and she won national titles in both categories of events.
Aged only 18, Stephens was sent out to the 1936 Summer Olympics. There, she won the 100 m final, beating reigning champion and reigning world record holder Stanisława Walasiewicz of Poland (who an autopsy discovered was not female under then-current Olympic rules). Her time of 11.5 s was below the world record, but was not recognised because a strong tailwind was present at the time of the race. Next, Stephens anchored the American 4 x 100 m relay team that won the Olympic title after the leading German team dropped its baton.
Stephens retired from athletics shortly after the Games and played some professional baseball and softball. She attended William Woods University in Fulton, MO. From 1938 to 1952, she was the owner and manager of her own semi-professional basketball team.
She died in Saint Louis at age 75.
She was employed for many years in the Research Division of the U.S. Aeronautical Chart and Information Service (later, a part of the Defense Mapping Agency) in St. Louis, Mo.
At the 1936 Olympics it was suggested that Stephens (and her 100 metres rival Stella Walsh, who was later proven to be a man under current Olympic rules) were in fact male. The Olympics committee performed a physical check on Stephens and concluded that she was a woman.
The Life of Helen Stephens - The Fulton Flash, by Sharon Kinney Hanson, 2004.
Helen Stephens was always a woman on the move - from teenaged Olympic track and field champion to becoming the first woman owner/manager of an all-woman semiprofessional ball team to present activism as a sports advocate. Stephens drew the public eye as a brilliant champion in the 1936 Olympics, when the Fulton, Missouri farm girl ran the 100 meters in 11.5 seconds - setting a world record that stood for 24 years. "The Fulton Flash" won a second gold as anchor leg in the 400 meter relay. As an amateur she set world, Olympic, American and Canadian records in running, broad jump and discuss. Stephens started "The Helen Stephens Olympic Co-Eds," in 1938 - the first woman to create, own and manage a semiprofessional basketball team, which remained active until 1952. Stephens was actively involved in national and state senior games, inspiring teenagers and senior citizens alike to exercise and work for good health. She is honored in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, the US Track and Field Hall of Fame and the Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame.