First Woman Sports Broadcaster Donna deVarona Serves Up Healthy Living Recipe
If there was one word to describe two-time Olympic gold medalist and first woman sports broadcaster Donne de Varona would be a trailblazer.
It was 1960 and only at 13 years old, deVarona had qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming team. At 17 she was already following her dream as a sportscaster.
In a Q&A interview, deVarona shares her life after sports and the Upcoming Tokyo Games.
Q: How does it make you feel to be the first woman sports broadcaster who has paved the way for others and how has your role helped other women in business and beyond sport?
A: I am grateful to those who gave me an opportunity to participate in the business of sport. I think anyone who has had the chance to inspire others feels a special satisfaction that goes beyond work. In my situation I was able to use the visible platform of broadcasting, producing and writing to elevate women in sport. It was rewarding to be in a position to profile issues and obstacles that girls and women have had to overcome to participate in every level of the sport.
Q: What is your life motto or mantra?
A: “ Never give up on your dreams”
Q: What are your tips for staying active?
A: I work out at least 4 days a week on average. In respect to staying relevant in the sporting world, I continue to serve many organizations. I also stay up to date on the many issues that threaten the welfare of sport and individual athletes.
Q: The book More Than a Game: One Woman’s Fight for Gender Equity in Sport would you write or contribute to another book on this topic or subject?
A: Yes I am always interested in contributing to this topic.
Q: Tell us about your work with the Women’s Sports Foundation?
A: Basically my dear friend Olympic skier Suzy Chaffee introduced me to Bille Jean King after she beat Bobby Riggs. I then pitched her on the idea of combining forces to create a foundation for all athletes-Shortly after our meeting her then-husband Larry King invited me to travel to San Francisco to pitch him on the structure and purpose of a foundation. I spent the day writing out my vision and shortly thereafter BJK donated a check she had been given that was earmarked for a charity to set up the WSF as a legal entity. After a few charity events, BJK found she had too much on her agenda as she was still competing and left the foundation. I was then made the first President and Chairman. Under my leadership, we created our annual WSF dinner and fundraiser, started the now annual National Girls and women’s sports day-lobbied for Title !X, conducted and published research and started funding travel and training grants. We also gave out journalism awards, created a coaching round table and raised funds to support all these initiatives. I served in these capacities from 1976 to 1986. After ensuring that the WSF was on solid footing It has been extremely important that every two years the WSF rotates the Presidency with a very current athlete thus inspiring every new generation to lead and learn. Additionally upon retirement BJK came back to the foundation fully committed to its mandates thus carrying on its legacy.
Q: What your top 5 tips for helping others?
A: Listen, create a plan, invite others to help, follow-up and always try to understand the bigger picture.
Q: What is your favorite film?
A: Gone with the Wind
Q: After competing in the 1964 Tokyo Games, how excited are you for the return of the games next year?
A: I am looking forward to returning to Japan. My favorite memory is other than winning two gold medals, especially as a relay member, was spending time with the athletes in the Olympic village. Almost every night I joined basketball great former Senator Bill Bradley for dinner conversation. We discussed politics and it was then that he said he was interested in running for President. Years later when I was working on Title 1X and other Olympic issues the Senator was always helpful. I treasure the friends I have made over the years through international sport.
Christine is a nationally published health and fitness writer. She writes a weekly column in the Sherbrooke Record, Quebec’s second-largest English language newspaper. In addition, Christine is the creator, producer, and host of B.C.’s only Running, Fitness and Health show called Run With It airing on Novus (TELUS) and YouTube channel.