Blast To The Past: When Two Swimmers Surfaced In One Lane At The 1982 U.S. Nationals

On Monday, we published an article about an incident which occurred in the women’s 200 IM final at the 2024 Polish Championships, where Aleksandra Knop started her race in lane 7 but surfaced in lane 6 after her back-to-breast turn, swimming in the same lane as Marianna Rydynska. After the race, Knop was disqualified.

However, Polish Nationals wasn’t the first time that two swimmers wound up in the same lane during a women’s 200 IM race. This actually happened to former American Olympians Susan von der Lippe (née Rapp) and Sue Heon Preston at the 1982 U.S. National Championships at the IUPUI natatorium in Indianapolis, Indiana. At the time, Von der Lippe was 17 while Heon was 20.

According to Von der Lippe herself, she and Heon were in a swim-off for the final spot in the ‘A’ final, and Heon found herself in Rapp’s lane after making her back-to-breast turn.

“[Heon] was a much better backstroker but her turn placed her on front of me in my lane,” Von der Lippe told SwimSwam. “She didn’t realize until I caught her on breaststroke and we raced back in the same lane. They put ‘Oops!’ on the scoreboard.”

Unlike Knop, Heon was not disqualified. Instead, she was relegated to the ‘B” final while Von der Lippe got to swim in the ‘A’ final. Von der Lippe finished fourth in the final with a time of 2:20.29.

Following their 200 IM clash, Heon and Von der Lippe went on to have successful swimming careers. They both competed at the 1984 Olympic games — Heon finished fourth in the 400 IM while Von der Lippe nothced 200 breast silver and a gold for swimmer prelims of the 4×100 medley relay. Von der Lippe also swam the 200 breast at the 1988 Olympics, placing 13th.

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Jeff Roddin
1 month ago

This article closes by saying Von der Lippe also swam the 200 breast at the 1988 Olympics. Another fun fact is she qualified for 2008 Olympic Trials in her 40s!

I suspect for a swim-off it is irrelevant if the 2nd place swimmer gets disqualified or not. All that matters is which swimmer wins to break the tie for whatever position they were vying for. Getting DQd is no worse than coming in second (i.e. it’s not like if you get DQd you can no longer swim the event in finals).

Finally, I wouldn’t call Von der Lippe and Heon “former American Olympians.” Why are they former Olympians? Did they have that taken away from them (i.e. once an Olympian… Read more »

Honest swim fan
1 month ago

How fun to remember 40 years later (and 4 seconds slower than the Polish swimmer)

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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