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Fanny «Bobbie» Rosenfeld

Photograph of Fanny Rosenfeld

(1903-1969)

Track and Field

Source


Fanny Rosenfeld was born in Russia in 1903 and came to Canada as an infant. She lived in Barrie, Ontario until 1922 when her family moved to Toronto. Encouraged by her family, Bobbie, as she had been nicknamed, became an enthusiastic participant in local basketball, hockey, softball, tennis and track and field. While she excelled in all sports, she soon equalled and broke world records in track-and-field events. She caught public attention in 1925 at the Ontario Ladies Track and Field Championships when, in just one day, she won first place in the 220 yards, the 120-yard low hurdles, the long jump, the discus and the shot put and second place in the 100 yards and javelin.

Bobbie was a well-known track-and-field competitor when the International Amateur Athletic Federation decided to allow women to compete in five track-and-field events at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. During the Olympic trials to select the women's team, Bobbie set Canadian records in the running broad jump, standing broad jump and the discus and ran the 100 metres just four-fifths of a second slower than the world record. Dubbed "The Matchless Six" by the Canadian Press, the women of the Canadian Olympic team became national heroes after their performance of 1928.

Bobbie was chosen to compete in both the 100-yard dash and the discus but when both were scheduled for the same day, she was entered only in the 100-yard event. It took four attempts to get the race underway after the Canadian favourite, Myrtle Cook, and another competitor were disqualified for false starts. When the race was finally run, the American entry, Betty Robinson, led until the middle of the race when Bobbie closed the gap. At the end it was not clear which of the two had won. The judges for both first- and second-place finish chose the American contestant and two other judges contended that the American had broken the tape with her arms and not her body. Despite an official Canadian protest, Betty Robinson was finally declared the winner with the silver medal going to Bobbie.

Jean Thompson, the Canadian favourite for the 800-yard race, suffered a leg injury during training and therefore Bobbie was also entered in this event although she had not trained for it. Jean Thompson fell behind in the race until Bobbie came from last place and ran beside her for encouragement so that Jean finished in fourth place and Bobbie in fifth. This selfless act of friendship and team spirit was typical of Bobbie Rosenfeld and endeared her to the Canadian public. The Canadian team went on to win a gold medal and set a new world record in the 400-yard relay with Bobbie as the starting runner.

In 1929 a severe attack of arthritis kept Bobbie bed-ridden for eight months, and on crutches for almost a year afterwards. She recovered and went on to win awards in hockey and softball, but in 1931 her arthritis returned and forced her into retirement. Although she was no longer an athlete, her wit and interest in sports led Bobbie to enter the world of sports journalism. She wrote a sports column in the Globe and Mail from 1937 to 1957 and then headed their promotion department until 1966. She died in 1969.

Fanny Bobbie Rosenfeld was a superb all-round athlete who influenced Canadian women's athletics on many levels. She set records in a variety of sports, demonstrated the highest ideals of sportsmanship and promoted women's sports through her writing. Her athletic achievements were recognized during her lifetime as well as posthumously. She was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 1949 and later in the same year named Canadian Woman Athlete for the Half-Century. Toronto established Bobbie Rosenfeld Park in 1991 and Canada Post issued a stamp commemorating her in 1996. Canadian Press still awards the Bobbie Rosenfeld trophy to Canada's Female Athlete of the Year.

The Jewish Women's Archive in the United States named Bobbie Rosenfeld one of their Women of Valor for 2000. More information on her life and achievements can be found on their Web site at: www.jwa.org/exhibits/rosenfeld/
(available in English only)

Resources

Hotchkiss, Ron. "The Matchless Six : Canadian women at the Olympics, 1928". The Beaver. - (October/November 1993). - P. 23-42

Lund, Rolf. - "Fanny Bobbie' Rosenfeld". - Athletics. - (November/December 1996). - P. 10-11. [two-part series]

Lund, Rolf. - "Fanny 'Bobby' Rosenfeld". - Athletics. - (January 1997). - P. 16-17. [two part series]

McDonald, David. - For the record : Canada's greatest women athletes. - Toronto : Mesa Associates, c1981. - 270 p.

Rosenfeld, Fanny. - "...Girls are in sports for good". - Chatelaine. - (July 1933). - P. 6-7, 29

"Rosenfeld's feats remembered". - Globe and mail. - (June 15, 1987). - P. C5

"Set Olympic mark in Amsterdam, Bobbie Rosenfeld in retirement". - Globe and mail. - (December 3, 1966). - P. 31

"Top athlete was refreshing writer". - Globe and mail. - (November 15, 1969). - P. 40

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