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Swimming at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Games:

Women's 100 metres Backstroke

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Host City: Helsinki, Finland
Venue(s): Helsinki Swimming Stadium, Helsinki
Date Started: July 29, 1952
Date Finished: July 31, 1952

Gold: RSA Joan Harrison
Silver: NED Geertje Wielema
Bronze: NZL Jean Stewart

Summary

There was a clear favourite for the 100m Backstroke in the form of the eighteen year old Dutchwoman Geertje Wielema but Wielema was taken ill with anaemia and barely trained in the months before the Games. Despite these problems Wielema set an Olympic record in the semi-final. The final turned into a straight battle between Wielema and sixteen year old Joan Harrison of South Africa who had narrowly missed a medal in the 100m freestyle. Wielema and Harrison, swimming in lanes four and five respectively were level as they approached the wall but Harrison’s finish was better and the decision of the judges was to award the gold to the South African. It was a desperately close finish and not all of the officials were in agreement. Wielema herself believed she a quick glance to see where her rival was may have cost the vital fraction of a second needed for her to win. Dutch disappointment was compounded when Jean Stewart of New Zealand beat Joke de Korte to the bronze in another extremely close finish and also when Ria van der Horst was disqualified by making an illegal turn. Harrison won four medals at the 1954 Commonwealth Games before retiring at the age of just seventeen while Wielema was both European champion and Dutch Sportsperson of the year for the year 1954. Wielema would have been a strong contender for further Olympic honours in 1956 had it not been for the withdrawal of the Dutch team.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Joan Harrison 16 South Africa RSA Gold
2 Geertje Wielema 17 Netherlands NED Silver
3 Jean Stewart 21 New Zealand NZL Bronze
4 Joke de Korte 16 Netherlands NED
5 Barbara Stark 15 United States USA
6 Gertrud Herrbruck 25 Germany GER
7 Margaret McDowall 16 Great Britain GBR
AC r2/2 Ria van der Horst 19 Netherlands NED DQ
3 h2 r1/2 Mary Freeman 18 United States USA
3 h3 r1/2 Pauline Musgrave 15 Great Britain GBR
4 h2 r1/2 Edith de Oliveira 23 Brazil BRA
4 h3 r1/2 Magdolna Hunyadfy 15 Hungary HUN
5 h1 r1/2 Gerda Olsen 20 Denmark DEN
5 h2 r1/2 Lenora Fisher 15 Canada CAN
5 h3 r1/2 Coralie O'Connor 18 United States USA
6 h1 r1/2 Anneli Haaranen 18 Finland FIN
6 h2 r1/2 Irena Milnikiel 18 Poland POL
6 h3 r1/2 Margareta Westeson 16 Sweden SWE
7 h2 r1/2 Doris Gontersweiler-Vetterli 18 Switzerland SUI
7 h3 r1/2 Erna Herbers 27 Germany GER