Munich to Montreal: Women's Olympic Swimming in a Tarnished Golden Era Casey Converse Author
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Munich to Montreal: Women's Olympic Swimming in a Tarnished Golden Era It has been called the greatest untold story of the Olympic Games. It's a true tale of athletics as Cold War proxy battle, systematic steroid doping and an improbable comeback. After decades of dominance stretching back to the 1920's, the USA women's Olympic swim team entered the 1976 Games in Montreal as underdogs. The overnight ascendance of the female swimmers from the nation of East Germany had set the world's most successful swimming nation back on its heals. What no one in America or the world could imagine at the time was that East German officials considered their athletes sport soldiers, pitting the communist regime against the west on the battlefield of international sport. And it would not be revealed until decades later that East Germany, a nation obsessed with gaining Olympic glory for the State, had implemented a systematic program of steroid doping its international athletes. The results of the doping in Montreal were stunning. East Germany, a nation that had previously never won an Olympic swimming event, arrived at the final race in Montreal with 11 gold medals. Munich to Montreal is a deeper look at one of the most revolutionary and tumultuous periods in Olympic Swimming history. The interval between the '72 Munich Games and the '76 Montreal Games saw the introduction of the first technical swimsuits for women and the overnight transformation of swim training brought about by the introduction of simple, functional swim goggles. During this period, America's top women swimmers struggled to remain competitive with the East Germans before the widespread implementation of Title IX provided them scholarships, professional coaching and the opportunity to continue their careers in college. With one event left on the swimming program in Montreal the USA remained shut-out of the gold medals. Shirley Babashoff, America's most prominent swimmer of the 1970's, would anchor the USA's 4x100 freestyle relay. World Record holder Kornelia Ender would lead the East German team. At the start of the great race, with a week of disappointment behind them and Kornelia Ender swimming away from the field, no one in the Montreal swim stadium gave the USA much of a chance in the battle for the final untarnished gold medal.


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