Posted on March 2, 2018 by Atria Senior Living
Atria Bay Spring Village resident Janet S. never dreamed she would win an Olympic gold medal in track and field – mostly because she was a swimmer.
“I ran a little, but not as much as I swam,” said Janet. “I tried out for track and field anyway in college and it was unbelievable to me that I made it.”
In 1951, Janet’s team at Boston University qualified for and competed in the Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That led her to compete in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
“It was a wonderful experience to walk into the Olympic stadium and know that I was representing the United States.”
That year, the Australian team was the heavy favorite to win gold during the women’s 4x100 meter relay. But there’s more to a relay race than running. The baton must be passed and, during the handoff, Australia dropped theirs. The U.S. team pulled ahead and won. Janet cried tears of joy when presented with her gold medal.
After returning home from the Olympics, Janet married her husband and moved to Barrington, Rhode Island, where she taught physical education to middle school students for 36 years. Janet was the first Rhode Islander to win an Olympic gold. She was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1968.
A longtime minister, Janet returned to the Olympics in 2010 as chaplain for the U.S. Olympic Team. She also ministered to residents at Atria Bay Spring Village and eventually became a resident herself.
“It’s where I always wanted to be,” said Janet.
Today, Janet’s car parked outside the community proudly sports one of just six official Olympic Gold Medalist license plates in Rhode Island. She donated her Olympic uniform to the United States Olympic Committee archives and says one day her gold medal will be given to her alma mater to inspire future generations of female athletes.
“Women can achieve anything they aspire to if they work hard and believe in themselves,” Janet said.