50 Year Lookback of 1968 Mexico City Olympics: Kaye Hall, Sharon Wichman Score Upsets for Team USA on Day Seven; Burton Wins; Gary Hall and Hickcox Dual

Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame ISHOF)

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 23, 1968

Women’s 10m Diving

After the preliminaries of the women’s 10 meter platform diving, Milena Duchkova, Czechoslovakia, was leading with 55.25, only a hundredth of one point ahead of Natalia Lobanova, USSR, 55.24, with Ann Peterson, USA, 53.44, and Beverly Boys, Canada, 53.20, close behind.

Lesley Bush, the 1964 Olympic Champion from the United States, failed to make the final round of dives by missing her opening dive, and scored only 43.72 in the preliminary rounds. Keiko Ohsaki, Japan, was the last qualifying diver at the end of the prelims with 47.77 points .

In the finals Duchkova dove superbly hitting an inward two and a half for 20.28 points on her last dive to easily win the gold medal with 109.59 points. Miss Lobanova won the silver medal with 105.14 points, while Miss Peterson was third with 101.11. Miss Boys was fourth, 97.97 points.

Miss Duchkova, 16, stated, “The loud cheering was not for me personally, but for my country . I am glad I dove well in the finals. I have been diving for eight years and am a Czechoslovakian secondary student.”

Miss Lobanova, 21, said: “I didn’t dive well. I thought I would place higher than I did. I didn’t know who of the three of us would win the final. The other two are both good.”

Miss Peterson said: “My first and fourth dives cost me the title. l’ve been sick lots of the time and just didn’t have the time to practice my more difficult dives, I figured these would do pretty good. I expected Lesley to be right there.”


  1. Milena Duchkova, TCH, 109.59
  2. Natalia Lobanova, URS, 105.14
  3. Ann Peterson, USA, 101.11

Historical Notes:

  • Duchkova won Czechoslovakia’s first medal in diving with the gold medal. Duchkova went on to win the silver medal four years later in Munich in 1972.
  • Lobanova won the Soviet Union’s first silver medal in this event at the Olympics. The Soviets won their first gold medal in women’s diving in 1976 with Elena Vaytsekhovskaya.
  • The Americans did not won the gold in this event again until 2000 with Laura WilkinsonLesley Bush won the title in 1964.
  • Duchkova was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1983.

Men’s 400 Free

Mike Burton, USA, who almost failed to answer the starter’s gun because of illness before the prelims, false started in the men’s 400 meter freestyle, but after his first plunge (the rules allowed for two false starts), he didn’t make any mistakes in winning the race.

Mike went out hard and at the 50 meter mark had a stroke lead over the field. In lane eight Ralph Hutton, Canada, made his move to drop the field taking the lead with 1:00.4 to Burton’s 1:00.6, Alain Mosconi’s, France, 1:01.4, and John Nelson‘s, USA, 1:01.7.

Burton regained the lead going into the 200, returning 2:03.8, with Hutton a half body length back at 2:04.4. Mosconi, at 2:06.1, was third. At 250, Burton tried to shake Hutton, but didn’t until 300 meters, when he opened his lead, as Hutton returned 3:08.3 to Burton’s 3:07.4. Mosconi was 3:10.2, and out of the race.

With half a length lead going into the last 100, Burton started to pour it on and slowly lost Hutton. Burton, always tough no matter the length of race, won going away in 4:09.0…fantastic at altitude. Hutton took the silver medal in 4:11.7 and Mosconi, who swam a good tactical was third in 4:13.3.

Fourth went to Gregory Bough, Australia, 4:15.9, who made his move too late for a medal, Australia’s Graham White, 4:16.7, was followed by Nelson, 4:17.2, Hans Fassnacht, West Germany, 4:18.1, and Brent Berk, USA, eighth in 4:26.0 (4:20.2 in prelims).

“I was really lucky. I’ve been sick, I passed out, thrown up, but for the last two days I’ve been getting stronger,” said Burton. “I took it out like I wanted to, at a minute, I could have gone out faster but I didn’t dare. I always go out to win, and I felt I had it from the last lap going home. I don’t think training has reached a peak. I do 12,000 meters a day. I feel you can still improve within that limit,” Burton said.

Hutton said, “The reason I barely qualified for the final (lane eight in 4:21.0) was that I wanted lane two or seven, but I underestimated a few swimmers. Once or twice I did 20,000 meters a day getting ready for this. I don’t think interest will die off in distance swimming most swimmers do a little more than half of this.”

Mosconi, France’s bronze medalist said, “I would like to train more for the 400 but I have too many school hours, and we don’t have enough facilities so it presents a real problem.”


  1. Mike Burton, USA, 4:09.0, Olympic Record
  2. Ralph Hutton, CAN, 4:11.7
  3. Alain Mosconi, FRA, 4:13.3

Historical Notes:

  • The United States has only won this race two times since Burton won in 1968. Brian Goodell (1976) and George DiCarlo (1984) won gold medals in the 400 free for the Americans.
  • Hutton won Canada’s first medal in swimming since 1928.
  • Mosconi also won France’s first medal in men’s swimming since 1952.
  • Burton was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1977.

Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Archive

Women’s 200 Breast

In the women’s 200 meter breaststroke, Sharon Wichman, qualified third in making the United States Olympic team, but at Mexico was the fastest qualifier for the Games final. Sharon, in nervous calm, slowly took off her warm-up suit. However, it was the only slow thing she did that night.

Going out the first 50 meters, Olympic Champion, Djurdjica Bjedov, Yugoslavia, Galina Prozumenschikova, USSR, and Miss Wichman, all turned ahead of the field in close order with Wichman ahead by a hair. At the 100 meters mark Miss Prozumenschikova had taken a stroke lead with 1:18.4 to Miss Wichman’s 1:18.6 with Miss Bjedov, third, 1:19.3. At the 150 meter turn Galina still led Sharon with Miss Bjedov in lane one third and Cathy Jamison, USA, in lane seven now beginning to move up. Heading for home Miss Prozumenschikova still led, but Miss Wichman fought back. She lengthened her stroke, and smoothly regained the lead and held it for the last 20 meters to win by half a body length for her gold medal.

Miss Wichman returned 2:44.4, an Olympic record. Miss Bjedov was second with 2:46.4 as Miss Prozumenschikova faded to third, 2:47.0. Fourth went to Alla Grebennikova, USSR, 2:47.1, followed by Miss Jamison, 2:48.4, Svetlana Babanina, USSR, 2:48.4, Chieno Shibata, Japan, 2:51.5 (2:50.6 in prelims), and Ana Maria Norbis, Uruguay, 2:51.9.

Sharon, 17, was ecstatic over her victory. “My great coach, (Hungarian Stefan Hunyadfi) has done everything for me, I wanted to be in there whether Catie Ball was or not, (Catie Ball, America’s premier breaststroker and world record holder, became ill at the Games and was removed from the 200.) I went faster the last lap because I figured everyone was going to, so I went as hard as I could. The heat time (2:46.8) was easy. I thought I’d be ahead in the final. I was worried one of them would come up and beat me. After the 75 when I got behind I thought I was through but I kept on trying and I’m glad I did. I was sick in the prelims but I got rid of it. It’s a nice feeling to see the flag go up for your country,” Sharon said.


  1. Sharon Wichman, USA, 2:44.4, Olympic Record
  2. Djurdjica Bjedov, YUG, 2:46.4
  3. Galina Prozumenschikova, URS, 2:47.0

Historical Notes:

  • Wichman’s gold was the first for the United States in the event. The Americans have won the event three times since with Amanda Beard (2004) and Rebecca Soni (2008, 2012).
  • Prozumenschikova was the defending Olympic gold medalist from 1964. The aforementioned Soni was the first swimmer to successfully repeat in this event.
  • Bjedov was unable to win gold in the 200 after winning the 100Penny Heyns is still the only woman to win the 100 and 200 breast in the same Olympics.
  • Wichman was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1991.

Men’s 400 IM

The 400 meter individual medley was a race between America’s Gary Hall and Charles Hickcox. Both clocked 4:56.2 in the prelims to lead all qualifiers. In the finals Hickcox opened a lead on the butterfly but Hall cut it down to barely a stroke margin, 1:02.4 to 1:02.6 at the 100. John Gilchrist, Canada, was third at the end of the butterfly with 1:03.4. Hall because he was fresher, out-dueled Hickcox on backstroke and slowly assumed the lead 2:15.5 to 2:15.9 at the 200 meter mark. Michael Holthaus, West Germany, was now third at the halfway point with 2:17.9. At the 300 turn Hickcox had pulled ahead over the last 25 meters of the breaststroke to lead Hall 3:44.6 to 3:44.9. Holthaus closed to 3:46.0 on the breaststroke leg, and Greg Buckingham stayed in fourth at 3:48.5. The freestyle leg was a fan’s delight as the two Americans went stroke for stroke, turning even with a 50 to go, but Hickcox held off his rival by three-tenth, winning in 4:48.4.

Holthaus, by a razor’s edge, took third, although Buckingham made up a two and a half second deficit to register the same time, both swimmers clocking 4:51.4. Gilchrist was fifth in 4:56.7, with Richard Merkel, West Germany, 4:59.8, to touch out Andrei Dunaev, USSR, 5:00.3, and Rafael Hernandez, Mexico, 5:04.3 (5:01.0 in prelims).

“I wasn’t sure of the last 100, but with 75 to go felt I had him and I feel very lucky to have passed him,” said Hickcox. “The US does better because we’ve got the training and the competition. We’re used to the big meets and the pressure. This was a very tough race, maybe my toughest, but if you’re in shape you can do this many races, even at altitude,” he said.

Hall, 17, stated, “I was sure I didn’t win. I wanted to stay with Charlie as long as I could and go into the last 100 ahead and try and beat him. It was a pretty good race. To stay with Charlie it had to be. My ears are popping and it makes for really hard breathing up here.”

Holthaus, 18, who’s been competing for five years, couldn’t believe he’d won the bronze medal. “I came here expecting to get fourth or fifth. I was afraid of the Americans. I’ve had three weeks of altitude training at Puebla here in Mexico.”


  1. Charles Hickcox, USA, 4:48.4
  2. Gary Hall, USA, 4:48.7
  3. Michael Holthaus, FRG, 4:51.4

Historical Notes:

  • This was only the second time the 400 IM was contested at the Olympics with Hickcox winning the second straight gold medal for the Americans. Gunnar Larsson of Sweden won the first non-American gold in the 400 IM in 1972.
  • Of the fourteen times this event has been contested, the Americans have had two people on the podium six times.
  • Hickcox is one of five men to win the 200 and 400 IM in the same Olympics. Larsson (1972), Alex Baumann (1984), Tamas Darnyi (1988, 1992) and Michael Phelps (2004, 2008) are the others. Hickcox was the first to do so.
  • Hickcox is the only man to medal in the 100 back and both IM’s in a single Olympics. Katinka Hosszu (2016) and Kirsty Coventry (2008) have also done that feat.
  • Hickcox was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1976.

Women’s 100 Back

The 100 meter backstroke for women was prognosticated as an easy victory for Canada’s Elaine Tanner. Elaine had reduced the Olympic record by three tenths of a second on her medley relay and in her preliminaries. With the absence of Karen Muir, whose country, South Africa, was barred from the Olympic Games, Elaine was the favorite.

But Kaye Hall, USA, had different ideas even though she had never defeated Elaine in the 10 years they had been competing against each other (Elaine is from Vancouver, BC, and Kaye from Tacoma, Washington, just over the border), Kaye went out hard and Elaine stuck with her for 25, but Kaye continued to sprint and was first by a stroke at the turn in 30.9, with Jane Swagerty, USA, a half stroke behind Elaine.

Kaye continued to stroke strongly and at 75 meters it was apparent Elaine could not catch her unless Kaye died. Hall never faltered and swam the best race of her life, breaking the world and Olympic record with 1:06.2. Elaine clocked 1:06.7, and Swagerty held on for third with 1:08.1 to touch out teammate Kendis Moore, 1:08.3.

Fifth went to Andrea Gyarmati, Hungary, 1:09.1, followed by Lynette Watson, Australia, 1:09.1 (1:09.0 in prelims), Sylvie Canet, 15, France, 1:09.3 (1:09.0), and New Zealand’s Glenda Stirling was 1:10.6 (1:10.1 in prelims). Sylvie Canet, trained by the famous French coach, Suzanne Berlioux, is the bright French prospect expected to hit 1:06 in 1969.

Miss Hall, 16, couldn’t believe she had actually won, “I’ve been swimming against Elaine for 10 years and never beaten her. The 100 was my best chance to win. I just took it out as hard as I could and then just tried to stay ahead of her because she really bombs it home. I was hoping to win, but I didn’t know if my plan would work. They’ve been behind me back home with cards and letters and I can’t wait to get home and hear what they say now,” giggled Kaye, who had just scored one of the biggest upsets in the Alberca Stadium.

Missy Swagerty, who was third, commented: “I knew it would be tough. I just swam my hardest and hoped it would be enough. I didn’t see Kendis (Moore, who was fourth by a hair). I could see Lyn Watson and I beat her. So I thought I was third.”


  1. Kaye Hall, USA, 1:06.2, World Record
  2. Elaine Tanner, CAN, 1:06.7
  3. Jane Swagerty, USA, 1:08.1

Historical Notes:

  • Hall’s world record was broken July 6, 1969, by Karen Muir again at 1:05.6. The Americans did not have the world record in the 100 back again until Natalie Coughlin broke a minute for the first time in 2002.
  • Hall’s gold medal was the third straight in the event won by the Americans as Melissa Belote continued the streak in 1972. Theresa Andrews (1984), Beth Botsford (1996), Coughlin (2004, 2008) and Missy Franklin (2012) have won golds for Team USA since.
  • Canada has yet to win a gold medal in this event. Nancy Garapick (1976) and Kylie Masse (2016) have won bronze medals for Canada. However, Tanner won Canada’s first ever medal in women’s swimming.
  • Hall was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979.

Watch the semi-final heats below:

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cynthia curran
cynthia curran
5 years ago

Fun watching the 1968 Olympics again and summary of it. I met Gary Hall Sr when he train at Flip Darr;s in 1972.

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