Betty Robinson, Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder for both the 100 and 50-yard dash, was in good spirits when she hopped into the front seat of her cousin’s biplane. He had recently acquired his piloting license, and Betty was eager to go for a spin. It was a hot day, and she couldn’t think of a better way to cool off than to fly into the clear, crisp blue sky.
What began as a pleasant afternoon excursion, however, ended as a life-altering disaster. At an altitude between 400 and 600 feet, the plane’s engine stalled, and it began to plummet toward the ground. Betty’s cousin cut the engine at the last moment to prevent a fire from breaking out, but there wasn’t anything he could do to prevent the crash.
After impact, Betty lay limp and broken in the wreckage. The man who dug her out assumed she was dead at first, but on closer examination, he discovered that she was still breathing shallowly. He took her to a hospital where she lay, drifting in and out of consciousness, for 11 weeks. When it came down to it, Betty had an eight-inch gash across her forehead, a crushed arm and a left leg broken in several different places—devastating news for a gold-medalist sprinter soon before the 1932 Olympic Games. It appeared that Betty’s exciting life as a sprinter was over only two years after it had begun.
Elizabeth “Betty” Robinson was born on August 23, 1911, in Riverdale, Illinois. Her life progressed along normally until she was 16, when her biology teacher saw her chasing after a train. After seeing her sprint, he asked her to run a 50-yard dash in a corridor of the school. After timing her sprint, he advised her to compete in track-and field-meets with the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club.
At her first track meet on March 30, 1928, Betty placed second in the 100-meter dash. The woman who placed first was the women’s world-record holder for the 100-meter, Helen Filkey. In her second 100-meter dash, Betty came in first, tying the world record of 12.0 seconds. Later that same year, Betty placed second in the Olympic trials and made Team USA. Just four months after her first race, she was headed to the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, which also happened to be the first Olympics where women were permitted to compete in track-and-field events.
Despite being a newbie to all things Olympic (and all things racing in general), Betty placed second in her trial heat and first in the semifinal, making her the only American to qualify for the finals. In the final, two of her competitors were disqualified, leaving Betty as one of the final four. She and two Canadians finished neck-and-neck, but the judges announced that Betty took the gold with a time of 12.2 seconds, beating the Canadians by just one-tenth of a second. Betty became the first to ever win a gold medal at an Olympic track-and-field event, and she remains the youngest woman to win a gold medal in the 100-meter dash in Olympic history.
Betty continued to compete in many more local events once she returned back to Chicago. In September of 1928, Betty lowered the world record for the 100-yard dash to 11.0 seconds. In 1929, she set a world record of 5.8 seconds for the 50-yard dash. She continued to train for the 1932 Olympic Games all along.
Then, on June 28, 1931, tragedy struck. This was the day of the plane crash—the day Betty’s dreams of another Olympic gold plummeted to the ground.
After the initial 11 weeks in her hospital bed and a hip-to-heel cast on her leg, Betty was confined to a wheelchair and crutches for four more months. After it healed, her left leg was half-an-inch shorter than her right. Doctors doubted she would ever be able to walk properly again, let alone sprint.
The chances were slight, and the odds were stacked against her. But Betty Robinson refused to give up. She resumed her training in 1934—three-and-a-half years after the crash—and qualified for the 1936 Olympic Games. Due to the severity of her leg injury, she could not bend her knee. She was unable to get into the starting crouch position for the 100-meter race. This did not deter her, however. Instead of running the 100-meter, she decided to run the relay, where she could start standing up. She ran the third leg of the 4x100-meter race for Team USA at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin—a race that the U.S. won. Against all odds, Betty came back from a horrific accident to win another Olympic gold.
Betty Robinson sets a great example for going above and beyond. She went to the Olympics as a beginner and emerged as a gold-medaled champion. She reached success—and she easily could have stopped there. But she didn’t. She kept on training and preparing for the next Olympics. Then tragedy struck, and it would have been easy for her to justify quitting. She already had a gold medal, after all.
But Betty had a “do it with your might” attitude (Ecclesiastes 9:10). She didn’t quit. She kept trying to reach success, even when it was by no means easy. And, eventually, her perseverance paid off.
We can apply this principle to everything we do. When school, hobbies or extracurricular activities get hard, do we just quit? It’s easy for us to think, “I’m not doing very well. Maybe I should just stop.” And even if we don’t quit, it can be easy to do the bare minimum—to do whatever we need to just scrape by. If Betty Robinson had thought that way, she never would have won that second gold medal. That is not a “do it with your might” attitude. Betty didn’t do this with her sprinting, and we shouldn’t do it in our lives either. Do more than the minimum. Whatever you do, make success your goal—and don’t stop until you have achieved it. Do it with your might!