Louise Ritter of Dallas became the first American woman to win a high jump gold medal in the Olympics since 1956. Throughout the competition, Ritter relied heavily on her maturity and experience as she upset her world-renowned Bulgarian opponent, Stefka Kostadinova. Ritter not only brought home the gold, she also set a new record of 6 feet-8 inches in a dramatic jump-off. Although her victory was considered by some to be a major upset, those who know Ritter best were not surprised. She has, without question, been the premier American female high jumper.
Injuries and illness dating back to childhood were constant roadblocks in her climb to greatness. Shortly after her initial involvement in athletics at age nine, Ms. Ritter contracted rheumatic fever, which prohibited any strenuous activity for almost three years.
However, once doctors gave her the go-ahead, she used her pent-up energy to quickly establish herself as one of the top young athletes in her home state of Texas. She recorded the second highest high jump in the nation as a sophomore in high school and never looked back. While attending Texas Woman’s University, she captured national titles three out of four years, and set her first American record at age 20. Since then she has held the American record on 10 different occasions and competed on three United States Olympic teams. But once again complications from injuries curtailed her activities. She was forced to have arthroscopic knee surgery in 1983 and 1985, and in 1984 she injured her hip.
In the late 1980s she embarked upon a new business venture, The Sports Connection, but continued to train and compete.