February 3, 1918—January 17, 1994

Missouri native Helen Stephens was an American runner who won two gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and was undefeated in official competition.

Known as the Fulton Flash, Stephens had won nine Amateur Athletic Union track-and-field titles by the age of 18.

She first found fame in 1935 when she raced against Stella Walsh, the Polish-American track star who had won the gold medal for the 100m women’s dash at the 1932 Olympic Games and was considered likely to make a repeat performance at the 1936 Olympics in the same event.

At the 1936 Olympic Games, Stephens again raced against Walsh and won the 100-meter dash in 11.5 seconds, besting Walsh’s previous time of 11.9 seconds. She was also a member of the U.S. 4×100-meter relay team that won a gold medal.

The U.S. team had a pair of 100-meter gold medalists, with 1928 champion Elizabeth Robinson joining Stephens, but for most of the race, they trailed the Germans, who had set a world record in a qualifying round. The Germans dropped the baton and were disqualified, and the U.S. squad edged out Great Britain by less than a second. Adolf Hitler was said to be so impressed by Stephens that he invited her to his private box.

After winning three more U.S. national titles (50 meters, shot put, and 200 meters), Stephens retired from competitive track. During her 30-month career, she competed in more than 100 races, winning every one. She and Jesse Owens headlined a tour before Stephens moved on to briefly play professional basketball and softball. During World War II she served with the U.S. Marine Corps. By the 1980s, Stephens returned to competitive track-and-field in senior events, maintaining her perfect record.