Michelle Ford Joined By Australian 800m freestyle Greats Shane Gould and Jenny Turrall For A Trip Down Swimming’s Memory Lanes


JUST FOR THE RECORD: Three of Australia’s world record holders over 800m freestyle (L-R) Jenny Turrall, Michelle Ford and Shane Gould, rubbing shoulders at the launch of Turning The Tide. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

by IAN HANSON – OCEANIA CORRESPONDENT

11 March 2024, 08:33pm

Michelle Ford Joined By Australian 800m freestyle Greats Shane Gould and Jenny Turrall For A Trip Down Swimming’s Memory Lanes

Australia has a proud history when it comes to the women’s 800m freestyle with no less than seven swimmers between 1956 and 1978 re-writing the world record books in the event which was first swum at the Olympics in Mexico in 1968.

WHAT A MEMOIR: Michelle Ford with book at Elouera Beach. Photo Courtesy John Veage.

And it is not every day that swimmers from bygone eras get the chance to mix and mingle and remember the days when they too ruled the pool – and it’s not every day that Olympic gold medal great Michelle Ford launches her memoir.

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But it was like bees to a honey pot for a special day in Michelle’s career in at Glebe bookstore in inner Sydney.

In fact extra special to have Australia’s only 800m freestyle Olympic champion Michelle home in Sydney over the last week from her home in Switzerland to launch her book – MICHELLE FORD Turning The Tide (With Craig Lord) and joined by fellow former world record holders in Shane Gould and their fellow Sydneysider Jenny Turrall as well as host of members from the 1980 Australian Olympic team.

The Book was  launched by US swimming legend and triple 1984 Olympic gold medallist Tracy Caulkins (Stockwell) who trained with Ford under Don Talbot in Nashville but missed the Games through the US boycott.

And the tales of 40 years ago rolled off the tongues as if it was yesterday and the feats of Turrall, Gould and Ford very much to the fore.

Australia’s list of world record holders over 800m began with another Sydneysider and recent Swimming Australia Hall of Fame inductee Lorraine Crapp who kick-started the world record rush in 1956 – the year she won Olympic gold in the 400m freestyle at the Melbourne Games – the 400m being the longest women’s event of the day.

Before Ilsa Konrads launched her world record assault also under  Talbot – Ilsa lowering the world mark for 880 yards freestyle no less than four times between 1958 and 1959.

Sydney golden girl Karen Moras in 1970 and Gould in 1971 adding their names to the growing WR list – Gould at one stage holding every world record for every freestyle event -100,200,400,800 and 1500m.

TELLING IT HOW IT IS: Michelle Ford Launches Turning The Tide. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

Before another Sydney school girl in Jenny Turrall came along in 1974 and 1975, twice lowering the mark and becoming Australia’s first world champion in Cali, Columbia in 1975.

And it set the stage for a ding-dong world record onslaught from Ford and the mighty Tracey Wickham who between them re-wrote the world record books four times (two each) in 1978 – Wickham’s time of 8:24.62 lasting nine years.

But just one Australian, Michelle Ford, has won that coveted 800m freestyle gold medal at an Olympic Games, in 1980 in Moscow.

Shane Gould (Silver in Munich in 1972) had been the only medallist before Michelle’s gold with Julie McDonald (Bronze in Seoul in 1988), Hayley Lewis (Silver in Barcelona in 1992) and Ariarne Titmus (Silver in Tokyo in 2020) the only three Australian medallists in the event over the past nine Olympiads.

Ford recalls the battle for supremacy in front of sell-out crowds in Sydney and Brisbane as her and Wickham swam their way to the top of international swimming – both making the 1976 Olympic team at just 13 years of age.

Their exploits and those of their coaches Dick Caine (Ford) and Wickham (Bill Sweetenham and Laurie Lawrence) as they prepared for the 1978 Worlds in West Berlin, the Moscow Olympics and 1982 Commonwealth Games makes for interesting reading – but only one would take on the might of the East Germans in Moscow.

With Wickham choosing to withdraw from the boycotted Games team and a swim team which now had Sweetenham as Head Coach – ironically adding the Midas Touch to Ford’s Moscow gold.

MICHELLE FORD – Turning The Tide (with Craig Lord) Fair Play Publishing and Amazon.

TURNING THE TIDE: Michelle Ford’s telling tale of the right to swim and the fight to win. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

TRAINING PARTNERS AND FRIENDS FOR LIFE: Olympic gold medallists Michelle Ford and Tracy Caulkins (Stockwell). Photo Anthony Edgar.

MOSCOW FLAG BEARER: Moscow 1500m freestyle bronze medallist Max Metzker who carried the Australian Flag in the 1980 Opening Ceremony. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

SIGN OF THE TIMES: Michelle Ford autographs a book for Tracy Caulkins and husband, 1984 triple Olympic medallist Mark Stockwell. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

THREE’S ALLOWED: LA triple medallist Mark Stockwell, 1980 Olympic gold medalist (4x100m medley relay) Mark Kerry with wife Lynda. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

MOSCOW MEMORIES: Michelle Ford with fellow 1980 Moscow Olympian, decathlete Peter Hadfield. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

HERE’S LOOKING A YOU KID: Toasting the Turning Off The Tide. Photo Courtesy Anthony Edgar.

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