Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jewish Olympian Profiles – Lillian Copeland

This is the fifth in a series of stories that we will publish honoring Jewish Olympic athletes, past and present, during the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Lillian Copeland has been called "One of the greatest overall female athletes of the first half of the 20th Century” and "One of the world’s first great female athletes.”

As a student at the University of Southern California, Lillian Copeland excelled at tennis and basketball, but she won every women’s track and field event she ever entered while at the school. She was the first woman from USC to compete in the Olympics.

Lillian, who was born to Polish-Jewish parents in New York City, competed in both the 1928 and 1932 Olympic Games in Amsterdam and Los Angeles. But she had already established her credibility, if not dominance, in field events before her first Olympic completion. In 1925 she garnered the first of her nine US National Championships when she won the 8-Pound shot put event. In 1926 she won her second consecutive shot put plus the discus and the javelin, setting new world records in the latter two events with throws of 112’ 5.5” and 101’ 1” respectively. In 1927 she broke the world record in the javelin with a throw of 125’ 8.5”. In total, between 1925 and 1932 Lillian set six world records in each in shot put, javelin, and discus.

It’s likely that she would have done extremely well in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, but she couldn’t compete because there had never been a women’s Olympic track and field competition prior to 1928. While qualifying for the US team that was to go to Amsterdam, she setting another world record of 121’ 8” in the discus. Unfortunately, there was no shot put competition or she would have probably won a gold medal. She did, however, take home the silver in the discus.

In preparation for the 1932 Los Angeles games, she won the US National Championship in both the shot put and the javelin. She decided, however, to focus on the discus for the Olympics. She was less than stellar, placing third in the trials. Going into the finals she was in sixth place. The Los Angeles Record described her performance as "Confident, calm, and perfectly poised. She made a perfect throw.” In fact she set a new Olympic and world record at 133’ 1-5/8” and won the gold in front of her home crowd.

In 1935 she competed in the second Maccabiah Games. She won gold in each of her three favorite events.

Lillian decided against competing in the 1936 Berlin games, having no desire to compete in Nazi Germany. While she could have had a lengthier career, the adage of "quality rather than quantity” probably applies well here. She obtained a law degree at USC and served twenty-four years in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. While there, Lillian qualified as an expert marksman, scoring 274 points out of a possible 300 during a department competition.

Lillian is an inductee of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the Helms Athletic Hall of Fame, the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the United States Track and Field Hall of Fame. She died in 1964 at the age of 59.

Dr. Michael D. Evans is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, having penned numerous titles including nonfiction book Jimmy Carter: the Liberal Left and World Chaos, in which he compares the Obama and Carter presidencies; and Atomic Iran; and the fiction book, The Samson Option, Game Changer; and his newest titles 7Days, The Candidate,The Final Generation, Cursed, The Light, and The Protocols. His latest release is The Revolution which is about democracy, dictators, deception and the birthing of a Caliphate. Evans' books are available at You can read his full biography on Wikipedia. Dr. Evans also runs the news site JerusalemWorldNews where you can receive current intel on Israel and the Middle East.

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