Simone Schaller (Simone Estelle Schaller Kirin)

Simone Schaller

Simone Schaller was born in Manchester, Connecticut, to a Swiss father and an Italian mother. Her family left Connecticut when Simone was seven and moved to Monrovia, California, because of her father’s asthma. She had one brother, born in Manchester, and two sisters, one born in Manchester and the other in California. Her father, originally a silk worker, began managing an orange grove. At Monrovia High School, she began participating in athletics, as well as volleyball, baseball and basketball. After her graduation she worked in an office and organized night basketball and softball leagues. She joined the Los Angeles Athletic Association in 1932 so that she could compete on the track team and met Aileen Allen, an Olympic diver in 1920, who encouraged her to try to make the Olympic team and coached her. Simone Schaller made the 1932 American delegation and competed at the 1932 Summer Olympics and finished a controversial fourth, behind Marjorie Clark. At the time, several people told her that they believed that she had finished in third place, but she never thought that it was true herself until seeing a picture of the finish in 1984. She had begun hurdling only three months prior to the games and had suffered a serious knee injury a week prior to her event.

Simone Schaller won the women’s 100m hurdling event at the 1933 National Championships in Chicago. After that her athletic club did not sponsor its members to attend any track and field meets, except for local ones, so she stayed in shape playing basketball and baseball. In the former case she played in a league not sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union. When she contacted by a representative from the organization she was not playing, due to a sprained ankle, and claimed that she had only placed her name on the roster to enter the games for free. In 1936 her club began sponsoring its athletes to compete nationally again, although she required donations in order to afford to attend that year’s Olympic Games. There she was eliminated after placing fourth in the semifinals after another disputed call. She had originally placed third in her heat, but the Italian team complained that Claudia Testoni had actually finished third and Schaller was then officially placed fourth, meaning she did not qualify for the final. Upon her return she, along with her teammates, were given the key to New York City by mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia. Simone Schaller married in 1937 to Joseph Kirin, an auto mechanic and player in minor league baseball’s Illinois–Indiana–Iowa League and stopped competing in track, although she did continue to play baseball and softball. She had two sons and a daughter and worked as a manager of food service at Temple City High School. In her later years, she took up tennis. Schaller died at home on October 20, 2016, at the age of 104 of natural causes.

Born

  • August, 22, 1912
  • USA
  • Manchester, Connecticut

Died

  • October, 20, 2016
  • USA
  • Arcadia, California

Cause of Death

  • natural causes

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