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Al Schoenfield Media Award



ISHOF Hall of Famer Donna de Varona is perhaps the most widely recognized swimmer in the United States.  A barrier breaker all her life, Donna began making waves at 13 years of age when she became the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Team at the Olympic Games of 1960.  A mere four years later, the 17-year-old had broken an unprecedented 18 world swimming records and won two Olympic Gold Medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, for the 400m individual medley and 4x100m freestyle relay.


Capturing the imagination of the national and international press, Donna became a teenage sensation, gracing the covers of many newspapers and magazines, include Life, Time, Saturday Evening Post and twice on Sports Illustrated.  Donna was often featured on "ABC's Wide World of Sports."  In 1964, she was voted Most Outstanding Female Athlete in the World by both Associated Press (AP) and the United Press International (UPI).


Donna's broadcasting career began in 1965 when she made yet another splash, becoming the youngest and the first woman sportscaster on network television in the sports broadcasting field.


At the age of 17, she provided expert swimming commentary for "ABC's Wide World of Sports" at the men's AAU National Swimming Championships.  As a pioneer in the sports journalism/broadcasting business she paved the way for the future women athletes and journalists alike.


During ensuing years, she successfully juggled roles as host, co-host, special reporter and analyst at some of ABC's premier events, including the 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1996 Summer Olympics and the 1984, 1988 and 1994 Winter Olympics, many times working with Al Schoenfield Media Award recipient Jim McKay.  In 1998 she joined the TNT coverage team at the Nagano Winter Olympics, partnered again with veteran Olympics host Jim Lampley.  At the 1984 Los Angeles Games, their late night coverage earned the highest ratings of any Game's telecast.


Donna also co-produced, wrote and hosted "Keepers of the Flame," a one-hour ABC Olympic television special nominated for an Emmy Award.  She received n Emmy Award for producing and covering the story of a special Olympian during the 1991 Special Olympics.  Donna is also the author of "Donna de Varona's Hydro-Aerobics:Swim Your Way to Total Fitness," and she has narrated the video, "Swimming for Fitness."


A leader in the sports and fitness arena, Donna has served on President Ford's Commission on Olympic Sports and President Carter's Women's Advisory Commission.  She served five terms on the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports and has worked with the Special Olympics since its inception.  She was a consultant to the United States Senate from 1976 through 1978 helping to pass the 1988 Amateur Sports Act and landmark "Title IX" legislation.  In 1984 she served as a consultant to Peter Ueberroth for the Olympics creating the "Olympic Spirit Team."


Donna is a founding member and first president of the Women's Sports Foundation and was a member on the Board of the U.S. Olympic Foundation.  She is a  UCLA graduate in political science.  One of the many leadership honors include a 1986 Yale Kiphuth Fellowship.  In 1991 she was the first female to receive the International Swimming Hall of Fame Gold Medallion that recognized her life as an inspiration to all swimmers.  In 1992, Donna was presented with the Olympia Award for her ongoing contributions to the U.S. Olympic Movement.


Donna has served many times as a theme reporter including the 1994 Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan story where she reported on "ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings," "Good Morning America," "Weekend News," "ABC's Wide World of Sports" and "Nightline" with Ted Koppel.  During the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, Donna served as anchor for ABC News' "Good Morning America" Olympic coverage, as well as filing daily reports for ABC Radio.


Donna served as chairperson of the 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer Tournament Organizing Committee, the most successful women's sporting event in history.  This year she has served as an advisor to the White House Task Force on the World Anti-Doping Agency that was established to combat the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in sports.  Since 1998, Donna has provided weekly commentary for Sports News Radio, the nation's largest and most listened to 24-hour sports radio network.  She was awarded the Gracie Allen Award for excellence in broadcasting in both 2000 and 2001.


The 2000 Sydney Olympics marked Donna's 12th Games as a broadcaster as she joined NBC's Olympic coverage team in Australia.


The International Olympic Committee presented her with its highest award, the Olympic Order during the Games.

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