At the age of thirteen, Donna de Varona became the youngest competitor at the 1960 Olympic Games. Within the next four years, she broke an unprecedented 18 world swimming records and won two Olympic Gold Medals. By age seventeen, she was voted Most Outstanding Female Athlete in the world by both the Associated Press (AP) and the United Press International (UPI).
After attaining 37 national championships and two Olympic gold medals, she retired from competitive sports in 1965. That same year, de Varona became the first female sports broadcaster on network television and in so doing paved the way for future female athletes and journalists.
As an ABC Sports on-air analyst, commentator, host, writer and producer she earned an Emmy Award nomination for “Keepers of the Flame” a TV special on the Olympics, and received an Emmy for her story about a Special Olympian. She also won the Gracie Award two consecutive years for her Sporting News Radio show: “Donna de Varona on Sports”.
De Varona is a founding member of the Women’s Sports Foundation and its first President. She served five terms on the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and was a moving force in Congress” passage of the 1978 Amateur Sports Act and the 1972 landmark “Title IX” legislation.
Some of the many honors bestowed on her include: The International Swimming Hall of Fame Gold Medallion, The Olympia Award for her contribution to the Olympic Movement, The Olympic Order, which is the highest award given by the International Olympic Committee, honorary doctoral degrees, and many leadership awards. In 2002 ‚Äì2003, she served on the U. S. Secretary of Education’s Commission on Opportunity in Athletics. Her leadership in sports communication, and consistent advocacy for expanding women’s opportunity in sports have had a wide and lasting impact across the nation and globe.