Alice Coachman, the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal for the high jump, has passed away at 90, reports The New York Times. Coachman’s daughter says she was in a nursing home recovering from a stroke when she went into cardiac arrest after being transferred to a hospital with breathing difficulties on Monday.
Many thought Wilma Rudolph was the first black woman to receive a medal, but Coachman paved the way for Rudolph along with other fellow female track stars like Evelyn Ashford, Florence Joyner, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
“I made a difference among the blacks, being one of the leaders,” she told NYT in 1996. “If I had gone to the Games and failed, there wouldn’t be anyone to follow in my footsteps. It encouraged the rest of the women to work harder and fight harder.
Coachman received a medal from King George VI and was recognized at the White House by President Harry S. Truman. She was later inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.