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Gail Weldon; Leader in Field of Athletic Training for Women

December 06, 1991|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gail Weldon, a pioneer in athletic training for women who was chief trainer and director of physical therapy for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, has died. She was 40.

Ms. Weldon died Wednesday at UCLA Medical Center after a long struggle with liver cancer, her close friend and publicist Sydney Weisman said Thursday.

In 1975, Ms. Weldon became the first woman hired by the Amateur Basketball Assn. as trainer for a woman's basketball team; and in 1976 she became the first woman trainer hired by the International Olympic Committee. At the conclusion of the Olympic games in Montreal, she was hired as chief trainer for the U.S. delegation to the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, when former President Jimmy Carter banned U.S. participation. She also served as head trainer for the 1979 Pan American Games.

In 1984, Ms. Weldon directed a staff of 400 volunteer trainers who worked at the 24 Olympic venues throughout Los Angeles.

She recently served as director of medical services for the city's Olympic Fest.

Weisman described Ms. Weldon as "honest, candid, full of humor, sharp as a tack, with a Chicago edge that saved her from being a goody-goody."

Internationally recognized, Ms. Weldon was one of two women first inducted into the National Athletic Trainers' Assn. in 1972 and one of the first 10 certified. A major focus of her career was to improve physical fitness for women and children.

She was owner-director of the private Women's Training Room and Conditioning Center in Mar Vista.

"This is a service that the average woman, after college, didn't have available," she told The Times when the center began a decade ago.

Ms. Weldon also created KidFit, a cost-free fitness program for children now used by several Los Angeles elementary schools. She launched that campaign in 1989 by writing an essay for The Times' Op-Ed Page called "Why Johnny and Sally Can't Run."

"If we don't do something," she wrote, "our children will be too tired, too ill and too lazy to reach for the success their future may hold."

A native of Illinois, Ms. Weldon graduated from Chicago's Hubbard High School and Northeastern Illinois University in Evanston, Ill. She received her master's degree from Indiana State University, Terre Haute, in 1974, the same year she began teaching at Western Illinois University at Macomb, Ill.

Ms. Weldon is survived by her mother, Jane Weldon, and her brother and sister, Kevin Weldon and Karen Sirovy.

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles, 5879 Washington Blvd.

The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the organization Caring for Babies with AIDS, or to scholarships for athletic trainers.

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