Plaques honoring Olympic medalists Joan Benoit Samuelson and Anita L. DeFrantz for their roles with the 1984 Summer Olympics were unveiled Wednesday in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor.
“We all know that women’s sport historically has been underreported,” DeFrantz said. “I’m thrilled that women’s accomplishments will be celebrated at the Coliseum with these plaques.
Benoit Samuelson won the gold medal in the first Olympic women’s marathon, which concluded in the Coliseum.
DeFrantz won a bronze medal in rowing in the 1976 Summer Olympics, was a vice president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and ran the Olympic Village at USC.
“Crossing the finish line in the L.A. Coliseum in the first women’s Olympic marathon was an opportunity that I had only dreamed of as a young girl,” Benoit Samuelson said. “Today, we celebrate the many women pioneers who made that moment possible while celebrating the accomplisments of women who live their dreams through access to sport.”
Benoit Samuelson and DeFrantz are the first female athletes commemorated in the Court of Honor since 1961, when a plaque was unveiled posthumously commemorating Babe Didrikson, who won three medals in track and field at the Coliseum in the 1932 Olympics.
Following the 1984 Summer Olympics, DeFrantz joined the staff of the LA84 Foundation, which was established to manage the surplus from the Games. She was the foundation’s president from 1987-2015.
DeFrantz was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee in 1986 and remains a member. She is also the senior adviser for legacy at LA 2024, the committee seeking to bring the 2024 Olympics to Los Angeles, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Sports Council.
The Court of Honor commemorates people and events with ties to the Coliseum and the demolished Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.
Plaques honor such legendary athletes as Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens. Others honored include John F. Kennedy, who received the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination at the Sports Arena and made his acceptance speech at the Coliseum in an address in which he used the phrase New Frontier” for the first time; Pope John Paul II, who celebrated Mass in the Coliseum in 1987; the Rev. Billy Graham, who attracted 134,254 people for a 1963 crusade; and football coaches Knute Rockne of Notre Dame and John McKay of USC.
—City News Service