Women’s History Month: Celebrating Four Legends In the Sport


by MIGUEL CABALLERO

30 March 2022, 03:07am

Women’s History Month: Celebrating Four Legends In the Sport

As part of Women’s History Month, this article honors four female swimmers who made history at past Olympic Games. These swimmers competed from the mid-1980s and into the 2010s. Specifically, from Los Angeles 1984 to London 2012. Due to the extensive and rich history of women within the swimming sport, choosing which athlete to highlight for this piece was the hardest challenge. That said, the ultimate distinction was swimmers who won more than six Olympic medals throughout their careers.

Dara Torres, United States

Torres had one of the longest careers in Olympic history. Her Olympic career started in Los Angeles 1984, where she won a gold medal with the 400 freestyle relay. Then, Torres competed in Seoul 1988, where she won a silver medal with the medley relay and a bronze with the 400 freestyle relay. Four years later, in Barcelona 1992, Torres won another gold medal with the 400 freestyle relay. However, this Games seemed to produce her last Olympic medal as she embarked on a career as a TV host and model.

Torres eventually returned and with less than two years of training, she qualified for Sydney 2000. Remarkably, Torres won three bronze medals in three individual events (50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly). Complementary to this, she won two gold medals in relays. Once again, after the Olympics, she stopped swimming, this time for six years. Then again, Torres came back and qualified for Beijing 2008. At that time, she was 41 years old and won a total of three silver medals and finished her Olympic career lacking only an individual gold medal. The result of her outstanding career is a total Olympic medal count of four medals of each color.

Franziska Van Almsick, Germany

Her first participation at the Olympic Games occurred in Barcelona 1992. She was only 14 years old and finished second in the 200 free and third in the 100 free. In addition, she won two more medals with the German medley and 400 freestyle relays. Then, two years later, she broke an eight-year-old world record in the 200 free, thanks to a time of 1:56.78. However, during the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, Almsick finished second in the event. Van Almsick added a silver medal with the 800 freestyle relay and a bronze medal with the 400 freestyle relay.

Four years later, in Sydney 2000, she won another bronze medal after swimming the leadoff leg in the 800 freestyle relay. Van Almsick’s last participation at the Olympic Games was in Athens 2004, where she picked up two more bronze medals with German relays. Her final Olympic medal count is four silver and six bronze medals in four different Olympic Games. Van Almsick was awarded World Swimmer of the Year honors in 1993.

Susie O’ Neill, Australia

At 19 years old, O’Neill started her Olympic career in Barcelona 1992 with a bronze medal in the 200 butterfly. However, she also swam three more individual events and was part of the medley relay. Then, in Atlanta 1996, O’Neill increased her medal count after becoming Olympic Champion in the 200 butterfly. Moreover, she won silver and bronze medals on the medley and 800 freestyle relays.

Three years later, O’Neill broke a 19-year-old world record in the 200 butterfly, taking down the iconic mark of American Mary T. Meagher. Her last Olympic Games were Sydney 2000, where she finished first in the 200 freestyle and second in the 200 butterfly. She won two more silver medals with Australian relays. O’Neill’s final Olympic medals count is two golds, four silvers, and two bronze.

Rebecca Soni, United States

Even though Soni only participated in two Olympic Games, she is considered one of the best breaststrokers in history. At Beijing 2008, Soni swam the 100 breaststroke and finished second. More, she made history in the 200 breaststroke after finishing in first place. On the way to gold, Soni became the first woman to ever swim this event under 2:20 (2:19.59). Soni concluded her participation in Beijing with a silver medal in the 400 medley relay. Four years later, in London 2012, she swam the same events. Surprisingly enough, the results on the individual events were the same (a gold medal in the 200 and a silver medal in the 100). However, this time, she won a gold medal on the medley relay.

Besides her Olympic achievements, Soni also made history due to her unconventional breaststroke technique, which became a case study for many coaches and swimmers. Her technique was distinguishable for its abbreviated leg kick that aligned with rapid arm sweeps. As a result, she used to slow down less than everybody else. Soni retired with six Olympic medals and five world records.

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