50 Year Lookback of 1968 Mexico City Olympics: Don Schollander Anchors USA to 4×200 Free Relay Gold on Day Five

Each day through October 26, Swimming World will take you back 50 years to the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and will re-tell the stories of those Games through archived meet recaps via the Swimming World Vault.

Read More on the 1968 Olympics

October 21, 1968

Men’s 100 Fly

The 100 meter butterfly for men, though in speed it is second only to the freestyle event, was a race of strategy. The fastest qualifier, Doug Russell, USA, had to contend with the world recorder holder, Mark Spitz, USA, 57.4 to qualify, and Satoshi Maruya, Japan, 58.0, as well as his ever dangerous USA teammate Ross Wales 58.2.

Russell was content to let Spitz take the early lead after the start. Mark went out rather hard, 26.1, a tactic Russell normally uses. Doug went out slow, 26.5, normally what Spitz does. At the 50 meter turn Spitz had a stroke lead as the Americans were one-two-three, as Ross Wales began to close in on the two leaders and at 70, Wales was a foot behind Spitz and even with Russell. Thirty meters from home Russell accelerated obviously not going to lose in the last 10 meters as he had done so often with Spitz in the past, pulling away to win in 55.9, the same time he’d qualified with. Spitz, in his seventh race in five days, faded, clocking 56.4 a stroke behind the winner. Wales, with 57.2 his best time of the year, was third, completing a United States sweep.

Fourth went to the Russian Vladimir Nemshilov, 58.1, followed by Maruya, 58.6, Yuri Suzdaltsen, USSR, 58.8, Lutz Stocklasa, West Germany, 58.9 (58.5 in prelims) and Robert Cusack, Australia finished eighth, 59.8 (59.2 in prelims).

Quotes:

“I think Mark was a little tired,” Russell said. “I was out exactly where I wanted to be and I was just a little bit faster coming home than he was. My kick didn’t get me to the surface and so I was behind at the 50 and then pulled even at the 75. Ross was in there too. I was feeling fresh and had a lot left, just like I planned. Beating Mark was the essential thing, he’s long been considered the world’s number one butterflier. I didn’t move into the picture until 1967 when I beat Ross at Oak Park, which was a real accomplishment, so consequently Mark was the next step up.”

“This guy really tore it up in Colorado Springs,” said Wales. “He was working so hard and Mark was in and out of the infirmary so much that I knew he’d win. I swam my race just about as expected. I wanted to be out with them and try and get ahead before the end. The outcome was just about what I’d expected,” he said.

Medalists:

  1. Doug Russell, USA, 55.9
  2. Mark Spitz, USA, 56.4
  3. Ross Wales, USA, 57.2

Historical Notes:

  • This was the first time this event had been contested at the Olympics as it was one of three new events to the men’s program. The 100 breast and 200 IM were the other two.
  • Spitz would go on to win the 100 fly four years later in Munich at the 1972 Olympics.
  • The Americans also went 1-2-3 in 1976 as they won the first three gold medals in this event. West Germany’s Michael Gross was the first swimmer to defeat an American in the men’s 100 fly at the Olympics in 1984.
  • The Americans have won this event seven total times at the Olympics.
  • Doug Russell was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1985.
doug-russell-1968-100-fly-finish

Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)

Women’s 100 Fly

The women’s 100 meter butterfly was an upset victory for the Australians, who inspired by their fine performance in the medley relay, came prepared to end U. S. domination.

The victor was Lyn McClements, who 12 months before had been a freestyler and didn’t win an important butterfly championship until she won the Australian trials in February. The 5-10½, 155 pound girl stroked fast and went out quickly to a 2 foot lead at the 25 and then opened more than half a body length lead at the 70 over the American Susie Shields. Other favorites, Ada Kok, Holland’s world record holder for the event at 1:04.5 and Ellie Daniel, USA, the winner of the U. S. Trials at 1:04.8, were a stroke behind. Stroking for home, Miss McClements, 18, had enough of a lead to hold off the charge of Miss Daniel.

Miss McClements won in 1:05.5, Miss Daniel was second in 1:05.8, Miss Shield’s third 1:06.2 (1:06.1 in heats) and Miss Kok fourth, also 1:06.2. Fifth went to Andrea Gyarmati, Hungary, 1:06.8 (1:06.6 in semi-finals), followed by Heike Hustede, West Germany, 1:06.9, Toni Hewitt, USA, seventh, 1:07.5 and Helga Lindner, East Germany, 1:07.6.

Quotes:

“I didn’t expect to win before I came here. I heard so much about the American’s fabulous times and then I got here and saw they were only human and then I thought I had a chance for a medal,” Miss’ McClements, who works as a secretary, commented. Her best before the meet was 1:06.8 while Kok, Daniel and Shields all had returned 1:04.8.

“I wanted to get out harder, but I didn’t,” said Miss Daniel, “I had a lot left coming home and thought I could catch her, but ran out of pool. I definitely should have been out faster to beat her,” she said.

“I had my hands full, I thought I’d get a medal but there were so many great ones here. I’m just happy to get third.” Miss Shields stated. “I think Lyn swam a great race and I’m pleased with my performance,” she added.

Lyn McClements added: “I don’t think there’s any one reason for my dramatic improvement except I have a lot more confidence up here. After the 50 I’ve never felt better in a race and I knew I could come home just as fast.”

Ellie Daniel stated: “I really didn’t have a plan. I just wanted to be out in 30 flat and back as close to 34 as possible, but after seeing Lyn I had to abandon it and go after her.”

Susie Shields stated: “I just didn’t feel as good as I did in the heats and I didn’t have the confidence, but I’m still happy with third.”

Medalists:

  1. Lyn McClements, AUS, 1:05.5
  2. Ellie Daniel, USA, 1:05.8
  3. Susie Shields, USA, 1:06.2

Historical Notes:

  • This was just the fourth time this event had been swum at the Olympics, and the first time a non-American took home gold.
  • Australia did not have a gold medalist in this event again until 2004 with Petria Thomas.
  • The Americans have the most gold medals in this event while Australia and East Germany each have three.
  • McClements was never inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Ellie Daniel was inducted in 1997.

Men’s 4×200 Free Relay

In the men’s 4×200 meter freestyle relay, the Americans definitely were favored despite the fact the Australians had qualified first with an 8:04.8 to the U.S.A.’s “B” team of Bill Johnson, Dave Johnson, Andy Strenk and Mike Wall who swam 8:05.1. France, surprisingly enough qualified third with 8:06.3.

In the finals of the 800 meter freestyle relay East Germany’s veteran Frank Wiegand led the first rounders with 1:58.4, a touch ahead of John Nelson, USA, 1:58.6 with Michel Rousseau, France, 1:59.5 and Gregory Rogers, Australia, 1:59.8, following. The second leg saw Steve Rerych, USA, clock 1:58.6 to put the Americans ahead of Australia’s Graham White 1:59.9 (3:59.7), East Germany’s Gregor Horst-Gunter, 2:02.6 (4:01.0) and West Germany’s Olaf Von Schilling, 2:01.3 (4:01.8).

A tired Mark Spitz swam the third leg for the United States and although any one of six men could have replaced Spitz in his eighth race in five days, he went on to 2:00.5, far off his best. Spitz was almost caught by Robert Windle of Australia, who clocked 1:59.7 to pull the Aussies to 5:59.4 to the American’s 5:57.7 split. The freestyle leg by Spitz who had not fully recovered from his all out effort in the 100 m. butterfly 20 minutes earlier cost the U. S. their world record. Only a great swim by Don Schollander, anchor for the U.S., preserved the win for the Americans.

Anchorman for the Australians was Mike Wenden. It was the first meeting of the two and Schollander with a slight lead clocked 1:54.6 to Wenden’s 1:54.3. The United States was first in 7:52.3, just over the world and Olympic record, Australia nabbed second, 7:53.7, and Russia, with a 1:57.6 anchor leg by Leonid Ilyichev took third, 8:01.6. Canada, with a 1:58.4 anchor leg by Ralph Hutton, was fourth in 8:03.2 and France, with a 1:57.8 anchor leg by Alain Mosconi, took fifth 8:03.7. West Germany clocked 8:04.3, East Germany followed in 8:06.0 and Sweden posted 8:12.1 for eighth position.

“The reason we didn’t get the world record here was because we’ve all swam in other races. In Tokyo we had a fresh team with two days rest. I think this team would easily go under 7:50 at sea level,” said Don Schollander.

“I thought if we were a little closer I could have caught Schollander, but he had a bit too much on me to catch him,” said Michael Wenden.

Medalists:

  1. United States, 7:52.3
  2. Australia, 7:53.7
  3. Soviet Union, 8:01.6

Historical Notes:

  1. The Americans had won five of the last six gold medals at the finish of this race. The Americans didn’t lose a 4×200 free relay at an Olympics they competed in until 1992 when they were third behind the Unified Team and Sweden.
  2. Australia did not win the gold medal again until 2000.
  3. This was Schollander’s fifth gold medal of his career after he won four golds in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 1965.
4 Comments

4 comments

  1. avatar
    john m razi

    Great-stuff ! Fantastic details plus quotes !

  2. John C Braun

    Here is to you, Doug Russell! Congratulations from an old friend and teammate!

  3. Tom Cooney

    Hey, Cuz Barbara Cooney Oliver, an article for you and Bob.

Author: Andy Ross

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Andy Ross is the new man on board at Swimming World. He is based out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida at the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is a 2017 graduate of Southern Illinois University where he graduated cum laude.

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