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The 1992 American Woman Award
Donna De Varona

 

U.S. Olympic Hall of Famer Donna de Varona is perhaps the most widely recognized swimmer in the United States. A barrier breaker all her life, Donna began making waves at age 13 when she became the youngest member of the Olympic Games of 1960. A mere four years later, the 17-year-old had broken an unprecedented 18 world swimming records and won two Olympic Gold Medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, for the 400-meter freestyle and the meter relay.

Capturing the imagination of the national and international press, Donna became a teenage sensation, gracing the covers of many newspaper and magazines, including Life and Sports Illustrated. Ms. de Varona was often featured on "ABC's Wide World of Sports." In 1964, she was voted Most Outstanding Female Athlete in the world by both the Associated Press (AP) and the United Press International (UPI).

A three-time Sullivan Award nominee, Ms. de Varona has already been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, and the San Francisco Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.

Ms. de Varona widened her scope in the ensuing years, successfully juggling roles as host, co-host, special reporter, and analyst during some of ABC's premier events, including the 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, and 1996 Summer Olympic Games and the 1984, 1988 and, 1994 Winter Olympic Games. In 1998 she joined the TNT coverage team at the Nagano Winter Olympics, again partnering with veteran Olympic's host Jim Lampley-as they were at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Demonstrating her wide range of skills, Donna also co-produced, wrote, and hosted "Keepers of the Flame," a one-hour ABC Olympic television special which was nominated for any Emmy Award. She received an Emmy Award for producing and covering the story of a special olympian during the 1991 Special Olympics.

Donna served as chairman of the 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer Tournament Organizing Committee, the most successful women's sporting event in history. Under the Clinton administration she served as an advisor to the White House Task Force on the World Anti-Doping Agency that was established to combat the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

The 2000 Sydney Olympics marked Donna de Varona's 12th Games as a broadcaster when she joined NBC's Olympic coverage team in Australia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) presented Donna de Varona with its highest award, the Olympic Order during the opening of the 111th IOC session in Sydney, Australia.

Ms. De Varona was also special advisor to Ms. Sandra Baldwin, President of the United States Olympic Committee, during the Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Donna, her husband, son and daughter reside in Connecticut.