50th Munich Games: Shane Gould swam in the history books in his only Olympics
Fifty years have passed since the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, and Swimming World is celebrating this anniversary with several reports on the athletes and events of these Games.
Gunnar Larsson and Tim McKee
Only three times in Olympic history has a swimmer won five individual medals at a single Games. Two of these performances were offered by Michael Phelpswho won all five of his individual events in 2008 after claiming four golds and a bronze four years earlier, while the other swimmer to achieve that record was a 15-year-old Australian who only appeared once only once at the Olympic level. Shane Gould had a short career in elite swimming, and she was somewhat eclipsed at the 1972 Olympics by seven gold medalists To mark Louloubut what Gould accomplished was quite unprecedented.
Training under the legendary Australian trainer Forbes Carlile, Gould broke her first world record in April 1971, when she was just 14, and by the end of the year she held freestyle world records in races of 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1500 meters. No other swimmer, female or male, has ever held all of these records simultaneously, and no other swimmer has done so since. The following year, Gould would also break the world record for the 200 individual medley, although she never had six records at once.
At the Munich Olympics, Gould entered as the favorite to win five gold medals. In an interview with Olympics.com, Gould recounted the intense emotions and pride she felt as she sat in the stands to watch the opening ceremony.
“It was just exciting and moving to see the world represented by athletes coming together,” she said in the report. “It’s a lot of pomp and ceremony and nationalism, and the good music that’s played really gets you emotional. The waving of the flag and the color and the celebration of life and youth and physical ability and the fact that people from all over the world can come together and do that, of course, that’s what the Olympic Games are for the most famous.
And then the teenager began to write history. There was a world record-setting race to start the 200m individual medley, with Gould finishing half a second ahead of East Germany’s Kornelia Ender. “With the national anthem playing and the flag raised, the whole electric atmosphere, everyone standing and the marching band playing, it sent tingles down my spine, and I couldn’t do anything but cry” , Gould said of the moment. in a 2014 video from the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Gould finished with a bronze medal in the 100 freestyle behind the Americans Sandy neilson and Shirley Babashoff, but she soon returned to the top with dominant swims and world records in the 400m freestyle and 200m freestyle. Finally, it took a world record for the American Keena Rothhammer to get the better of Gould in the 800 free.
No, she wasn’t perfect, but unlike almost every other high-medalist Olympic swimmer, Gould didn’t have the luxury of swimming with teammates who could help her fight for Olympic relay medals. No matter.
But then Gould was finished, even before his 16th birthday. After Munich, she never raced at another major competition. Almost 50 years later, Gould reflected on the decision in a March interview with the Sydney Morning Herald after another Australian sports star, tennis player Ash Bartyannounced her retirement from the sport when she was apparently at the height of her powers.
Barty had just won her third major title by becoming the first Australian to win the Australian Open in 44 years, and she was ranked No. 1 in the world at the time. While many fans questioned the decision as unconventional, Gould immediately identified with the tennis star.
“We both quit at the peak of our careers. Obviously, she believes, as do I, that there must be other things that could be challenging and interesting for her, and she wants to explore them,” Gould told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I stopped swimming because I realized there were so many other things to explore in the world, like philosophy, religion and environmentalism. They’re all fascinating and you can’t tell yourself. give it to them if you train and compete all the time. It’s as simple as that.”
Gould said she had no regrets about ending her career while still a teenager, except “in how it changed other people’s stories about me.” But her decision was about herself, just like Barty’s decision half a century later. Gould reiterated the key point that sport is not just about entertainment. Basically, the athlete’s goals and desires matter, nothing else.
“The dominant narrative for elite athletes is that they have to keep going and going and doing more and more events and entertaining more and more people and continually entertaining people, and making more money and accumulating the fame and notoriety,” Gould said, according to the Herald. But what if your authentic self says you just don’t want to do that? That was my experience, and that’s clearly where Ash is, and of course her.
Gould therefore walked away from the sport with her large collection of medals, and it was this single year that cemented her place among the sport’s all-time greats.