Bobbie Rosenfeld was a trailblazer and champion, eager and able to conquer a variety of sports.
A member of Canada’s first women’s Olympic track and field team dubbed “the Unrivaled Six” – Rosenfeld, Florence Bell, Ethel Catherwood, Myrtle Cook, Ethel Smith and Jean Thompson – Rosenfeld won a gold medal in the 4×100 relay and d silver in the 100-meters team officials swore they beat American Betty Robinson to win the 100) at the 1928 Amsterdam Games – the first time women were allowed to compete in Olympic track and field .
But she also excelled in everything from baseball, basketball and hockey to lacrosse, softball and tennis. Voted CP’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1959, Rosenfeld’s name honors CP’s Female Athlete of the Year award.
Tennis star Leylah Fernandez won the 2021 Bobbie Rosenfeld Award on Tuesday.
After arthritis ended her athletic career, Rosenfeld joined The Globe and Mail in 1937. She wrote for the newspaper for 20 years, often in a column called Sports Reel.
Rosenfeld “ignited the sports world with her unparalleled ability in any sport she has ever tried,” the Globe wrote in its 1969 obituary on Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Born Fanny Rosenfeld in Russia (now Ukraine) on December 28, 1904, she arrived in Canada as a baby when her family chose to leave because of anti-Semitism. His father Max arrived first, followed by his mother Sarah with Bobbie and his older brother. Bobbie survived smallpox on the ship to Canada.
The Rosenfelds settled in Barrie, Ontario, joining family members who had come earlier. Known by her nickname “Bobbie” after her long hair was cut, Rosenfeld grew up trying her hand at a wide range of sports. She excelled in all of these areas, often facing and beating boys.
She moved to Toronto with her family in 1922 and worked at the Patterson Chocolate Factory, where she joined the company’s track club, as well as the Young Women’s hockey and basketball teams. Hebrew Association.
She turned heads at a local track and field competition in Beaverton, Ont., In 1923, when she entered the 100 yards like a lark and beat Canadian champion Rosa Grosse, just two-fifths of the way. second of the world record. . Rosenfeld won the race despite carrying her big “pull-tent bloomer” softball, notes her Canadian Sports Hall of Fame biography. Other times, she competed with men’s swimwear and socks borrowed from her father.
She defeated world 100-yard champion Helen Finkley in 1923, won the Toronto lawn tennis title in 1924, and tied the world record for 100 yards in 11 seconds in 1925.
At the 1925 Ontario Women’s Track and Field Championships, she won the shot put, discus, width jump, 200 yards and 100 hurdles, while finishing second in the 100 yards and javelin – the all in one afternoon.
In 1928, she set national long jump, standing long jump and discus records that lasted into the 1950s.
“She ran like the wind,” said Jean McCann, who helped found the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame. “I can see her again, walking down this trail.”
At the 1928 Olympics, Rosenfeld also competed in the 800 meters to help Thompson, who had been injured in training. When Thompson started backing up after mingling with a Japanese runner, Rosenfeld moved to her teammate’s side and began to cheer her on.
Thompson was fourth and Rosenfeld fifth, with observers saying Rosenfeld likely could have won a medal if she hadn’t been so selfless.
The Canadian team, which included star sprinter Percy Williams, returned home with a hero’s welcome, with thousands taking to the streets of Toronto.
Rosenfeld was soon sidelined with rheumatoid arthritis. A doctor recommended the amputation, but the family refused, and she spent nine months in bed and then time on crutches, which she one day set aside to join her hockey team. In 1932, she was named Ontario’s Most Outstanding Female Hockey Player, but her arthritis returned in 1933 and she retired.
Rosenfeld turned to hockey and journalism, later becoming the Globe’s public relations manager until illness forced her to retire in 1966.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published on December 28, 2021.
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