Disclaimer: Dolfin Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Dolfin Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
This week, we look back at a pair of April 11, 1980 swims that might personally resonate with a number of swimmers right now.
On April 11, 1980, the best of the best met for the AAU Senior National Indoor Championships in Austin, Texas. There was a thick air of uncertainty over the event. For some, it was a tune-up for that summer’s Olympic Trials, scheduled for late July. But there was already a strong possibility of an Olympic boycott.
The 1980 host nation, the Soviet Union, was facing heavy international pressure over its invasion of Afghanistan. By January of 1980, the United States had joined the potential boycott as one threatened consequence if the Soviet Union refused to leave Afghanistan. It was still unclear if the United States would actually go through with the boycott as of the National meet, but the thought of a ‘lost’ Olympics hovered over the top Americans.
That cloud, though, didn’t slow down Rowdy Gaines or Mary T. Meagher, who broke world records on the same day. Gaines was the defending World Champs silver medalist in the 200 free, and at age 21, he smashed the world record with a 1:48.16. That record would stand until Gaines re-broke it in 1982, and no one else would knock Gaines off the record until 1983.
Meagher, meanwhile, was a 15-year-old phenom who had set a world record in the 200 fly the summer before, at Pan Ams. At those 1980 Nationals, Meagher added the 100 fly to her collection, going 59.26. She, too, would break the record again a year later, and her name would stand on that record for an incredible 19 years. No one could best her mark until nearly the turn of the century, in 1999.
A few other notable swims from this week in history:
- The men’s short course 100 back mark took a beating this week, though spread across three decades. In 1993, Jeff Rouse became the first man ever under 52 seconds in the event, on April 12. Almost 13 years later to the day (April 9, 2006), Ryan Lochte became the first ever under 50 seconds.
- Speaking of short course world records, on April 10, 2008, Jessica Hardy broke a nearly-four-year-old world record in the short course 50 breast, going 29.58. Hardy would reset the record four more times over her career. From there, the history of the record gets wacky. After five years holding the record, Hardy watched Yulia Efimova break the record in fall of 2013. But Efimova later failed a doping test and the record was invalidated. Hardy would then hold the record another three years, until Alia Atkinson finally toppled it in 2016.
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