Copeland, Lillian

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COPELAND, LILLIAN (1904–1964), track and field athlete, Olympic gold and silver medalist, member of the U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame. One of the greatest field competitors in women's track and field history, Copeland was born in New York City to Polish immigrants. Copeland's father died when she was young, and after her mother married Abraham Copeland, the family moved to Los Angeles. Copeland excelled in all throwing events, especially in the shot put, winning the aau championships in that event five times (1925–28, 1931) and setting the shot-put record in 1928 at 40′ 4.25″ (12.30 m.). Copeland also won the aau discus throw title in 1926 with a 101′ 1″ (30.81 m.) world record, and again in 1927, and the javelin throw title in 1926 and 1931, breaking the world record in the javelin three times in 1926 and 1927. After setting a world discus record of 115′ 8.5″ at the U.S. Olympic trials in 1928, Copeland won the discus silver medal at the Olympic Games, the first Olympics to include women's track and field events (though not yet the shot put and javelin throw). Copeland also helped set a world record in the 440-yard relay at the 1928 time trials. Copeland then attended the University of Southern California Law School and semi-retired from competition, but she came back for the 1932 Olympics, where she won gold in the discus on her last throw of the day with a world record toss of 133′ 2″ (40.58 m.). She competed in the 1935 Maccabiah Games, winning the gold medal in discus, shot put, and javelin. Though planning to defend her discus gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Copeland joined the movement to boycott Hitler's Games.

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]