Marie Marvingt


       “The sporting life of Mademoiselle Marvingt is of a most extraordinary kind. Swimming, cycling, mountain climbing, ballooning, flying, riding, gymnastics, athletics, fencing -- there is not a single sport in which she does not shine. Where coolness, courage, and skill are required, in the aerodrome, on the mountains, in the sea, at the fencing school, she is always to be seen in the front rank.”
                 --“The World’s Greatest Sportswoman,” Forest and Stream, 1913

Marie Marvingt's stature as an all-around athlete and recordwoman was honored by the French Academy of Sports in 1910, when it awarded her a gold medal for her expertise in all sports. Yes, all sports. She remains the only individual so honored.

By that time, she had outshot an entire army division to be named a first-class shot, was a world-class mountain climber, and had won twenty first prizes in the Winter Sports at Chamonix in skiing, skating, and luge. She had also won prizes, set records, or displayed outstanding expertise in dozens of other arenas.

In 1908, Marie's entry to ride the Tour de France was refused: "Men only, please." Marie went anyway. She biked the 2,789-mile course behind the all-male field. Of the 114 Tour de France entrants in 1908, only 36 actually finished the course. Thirty-seven, counting Marie.

As a lifelong athlete, Marie enjoyed an uncommon physical vitality that allowed her to remain active almost to the end. At age 86, she strapped on a 40-lb backpack and bicycled from Nancy to Paris (208 miles) and back again. By herself.