Google's Doodle on March 24 paid tribute to Kitty O'Neil -- American stunt performer and once the fastest woman in the world. O'Neil forged a path in the highly competitive worlds of high-speed sports and dangerous stunts despite her disability. A severe disease had left her deaf as a child.
In honour of her 77th birthday, Google got a deaf artist to illustrate her life. The Google Doodle showed O'Neil jumping from a helicopter, driving a race car and posing triumphantly in an orange suit against a blue and white background.
O'Neil was born in Texas in 1946. As a baby, she developed an intense fever which led to deafness. Growing up, she relied on lip reading to communicate.
Despite her struggles, O'Neil remained committed to professional athleticism.
She also participated in high-speed sports like motorcycle racing and water skiing.
O’Neil was an action lover, who also performed highly dangerous stunts like jumping from helicopters and falling from heights.
She achieved her ultimate feat in 1976, when she sped across the Alvord Desert in Oregon state at 512.76 miles per hour in a rocket-powered car.
O'Neil broke the previous women’s record in land-speed and had her eyes set on shattering the men’s mark too. But she was never granted the opportunity to surpass the overall record, for that would have disturbed the status quo. She even fought her case legally but to no avail.
However, she went on to break other records, including piloting rocket dragsters and jet-powered boats.
In the late 70s, O'Neil served as a stunt double in several action films, including The Blues Brothers, The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman.
O'Neil was the first woman to join Stunts Unlimited, an association for Hollywood's best stunt performers.
She died in South Dakota, USA in 2018.