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Swimming at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Games:

Women's 100 metres Backstroke

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Host City: Los Angeles, United States
Venue(s): Olympic Park Swimming Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Date Started: August 10, 1932
Date Finished: August 11, 1932

Gold: USA Eleanor Holm
Silver: AUS Bonnie Mealing
Bronze: GBR Valerie Davies

Summary

With defending champion Zus Braun languishing in a hospital bed, the attention of the swimming world was fixed upon two swimmers. The glamorous Eleanor Holm of the USA, who held the world record, and the woman whose record Holm had broken, Bonnie Mealing from Woolloomooloo, Australia. Holm attacked the field from the start of the final and was still gaining on the field at the finish to head Mealing by two seconds. Eleanor Holm was one of the most glamorous and controversial female sporting figured of the nineteen-thirties. In 1933 she married the popular singer and bandleader, Art Jarrett, and for a while combined her swimming with performances alongside her husband’s band. Despite her marriage, she continued competing and qualified for the 1936 Berlin Olympics but her attempt to retain her title ended before she even reached European soil. Two days out of New York she was invited to a party thrown in honour of the journalists travelling with the Olympic team. Holm was seen drinking champagne until the early hours and was warned by team officials about her conduct. The breaking point came when the ship was docked at Cherbourg, Holm spent the day at several champagne parties and was discovered on deck by the team chaperone the worse for drink, and accompanied by a man, at ten thirty in the evening. Returned to her cabin, she proceeded to shout obscenities out of the porthole. The chaperone then returned with the team doctor, who was unable to wake her and diagnosed her as being in a state of “acute alcoholism”. In the morning Holm woke to the news that she had been removed from the Olympic team and despite taking her case to USOC president Avery Brundage, she would not compete in Berlin.

She did however report on the Games for the International News Agency and was an honoured guest of the German organisers. On her return to America she turned professional, divorced Art Jarrett and soon married Billy Rose, in whose Aquacade spectaculars she would star. A brief dalliance with Hollywood saw her co-star with Glenn Morris in “Tarzan’s Revenge” but that was to be her only acting appearance. She hit the headlines one more time due to scandalous divorce proceedings with Billy Rose before settling to a third and longer lasting marriage.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Eleanor Holm 18 United States USA Gold
2 Bonnie Mealing 19 Australia AUS Silver
3 Valerie Davies 20 Great Britain GBR Bronze
4 Phyllis Harding 24 Great Britain GBR
5 Joan McSheehy 19 United States USA
6 Joyce Cooper 23 Great Britain GBR
1 h3 r1/2 Zus Philipsen-Braun 21 Netherlands NED
3 h2 r1/2 Ruth Kerr 16 Canada CAN
3 h3 r1/2 Marjorie Linton Canada CAN
4 h1 r1/2 Puck Oversloot 18 Netherlands NED
5 h1 r1/2 Misao Yokota Japan JPN
AC h2 r1/2 Maria Lenk 17 Brazil BRA DQ