SSPC: What Made Olympic Champ Tracy Caulkins So Dominant in So Many Events?

In the SwimSwam Podcast dive deeper into the sport you love with insider conversations about swimming. Hosted by Coleman Hodges and Gold Medal Mel Stewart, SwimSwam welcomes both the biggest names in swimming that you already know, and rising stars that you need to get to know, as we break down the past, present, and future of aquatic sports.

Olympic swimming icon Tracy Caulkins (married name Tracy Stockwell) won 48 U.S. National titles and broke 63 American Records–setting American Records in all four strokes. She was on-course to medal in seven events at the 1980 Olympic Games–which were boycotted by President Carter. Of course Tracy finally achieved her Olympic moment four years later at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, taking home three gold medals.

Growing up Tracy was known – and this was taken as gospel – as the greatest female swimmer in history. This was the oxygen I breathed as a young age grouper.  I’m rarely nervous to talk with any Olympic peer, but Tracy did set my nerves on edge.  The only other time I’ve been star-struck was when I met JFK Jr.. Yes, Tracy is on that level.

If you are young and don’t know your swimming history, dive into the full SwimSwam podcast here. Tracy’s funny, with a matter of fact wisdom that hits home and stays with you.

Music: Otis McDonald


Opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the interviewed guests do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the hosts, SwimSwam Partners, LLC and/or SwimSwam advertising partners.

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Retired coach
1 month ago

Even more than just four strokes…I seem to recall she set American Records in every event (either short course or long course) except 50 free, 1650 free and 100 back (her teammate had the back record). Perhaps my memory is faulty?

Gold Medal Mel Stewart
Reply to  Retired coach
1 month ago

I think that’s right…I did just under 2 hours of brush up research, and that sounds right.
In terms of body type, Tracy and Phelps could be siblings. Same hyper-extend arms and legs. A lot talent + hard work in those careers.

Reply to  Retired coach
1 month ago

Interesting, as she says, not a lot of event specialization, no semi-finals in her day. Also not nearly as many swimmers domestically and internationally 40 years ago. Some big int’l meets had 90 swimmers total back then. Nevertheless, her one or two WRs did not hold up very long.

Reply to  Retired coach
1 month ago

In 1981 at the USS International Meet in Gainesville, she swam the East Germans head-to-head and won the 200/400 IM, the 100 Breast, 100 Back (which she had never swam in international competition), and finished 2nd to Mary T in both the 100/200 fly. They didn’t recognize SCM World records yet (they were called World Bests), but in every event they swam, both she and Mary T went the fastest time ever recorded and beat the Moscow gold medalists. So I think you could safely count that at the very least as a 100 back American record.

Reply to  Retired coach
1 month ago

If you include short course meters, she set a world record in the 100 back. First woman under a minute if i remember correct scm.

Coach Bill
Reply to  Teamwiess
1 month ago

In Tracy’s day, Richter, Reinish, Kleber were better in Back. Gerwinger, Gerash and others were better in Breast. Meagher, Ender, Knacke and Pollack were better in Fly. Sippy W and others were better in Free. Tracy was USA’s jack-of-all-trades, really master of none internationally except for IM (for a bit), but even there her WRs didn’t last much beyond two years (if that).

1 month ago

Sad thing was the athletes were the big losers in 1980 and 1984 yes the boycotts devalued all medals won at both because all the best swimmers in the world weren’t there!

Gold Medal Mel Stewart
Reply to  Gheko
1 month ago

….I was still a kid back then, but I do remember “the talk” about whether or not the Olympics would make it into the future after 80 and 84.

1 month ago

So glad SiwmSwam decided to do this interview with Tracy. She is such a definitive role model for all people. Humble, kind, considerate, industrious and precise all describe this classy person. Her parents, Tom and Martha were the best swim parents imaginable also. I agree with Gold Medal Mel about the comparison to the “Phelpian body style”. Tracy is truly amazing in every way. All who check SwimSwam hopefully will endear themselves to her legacy. Well done!

Reply to  SwimFani
1 month ago

The dejection about 1980 is getting a bit old. It was even a bit unseemly at the time, given that US took a principled stand whether you agree with it or not. Especially cumbersome coming now from an ex-pat who boasts about being on Swimming Australia board (nothing btw really to brag about given the leadership struggles and issues for Swim Aus during her tenure on board.)

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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