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Enriqueta Basilio (1948–2019), first woman to light the Olympic flame

by Kirk Fox

Mexican sprinter lit the flame to open the 1968 games in Mexico City.

Enriqueta Basilio was the first woman to light the Olympic cauldron when she was granted the honor at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, Mexico. The Mexican champion in the 80 meter hurdles, she was eliminated in her opening heats for the 400 meters, 80 meter hurdles, and 4×100 relay. Basilio was part of the 2004 Olympic torch relay when it passed through Mexico City. Australian Cathy Freeman is the only other woman to light the torch, doing it at the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia.

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Died: Saturday, October 26, 2019 (Who else died on October 26?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 71.

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What she said about lighting the Olympic torch at that time: “Maybe it’s because here in Mexico the mens and the womens have the same rights,” she said through a translator. “Maybe it’s because she comes from Baja California, the youngest state in the country. And maybe it’s because some people says she represents the typical Mexican type, a new kind of generation.” —Quoted in the New York Times

Full obituary: New York Times

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