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Swimming at the 1956 Melbourne Summer Games:

Women's 200 metres Breaststroke

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Host City: Melbourne, Australia
Venue(s): Olympic Park Swimming and Diving Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Date Started: November 29, 1956
Date Finished: November 30, 1956

Gold: GER Ursula Happe
Silver: HUN Éva Székely
Bronze: GER Eva-Maria ten Elsen
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Summary

On November 13th, just nine days before the start of the Olympic Games, Ada den Haan of the Netherlands shattered the world record. Sadly for the Dutchwoman, it was already known that she would not be going to Melbourne as the Dutch team had been withdrawn from the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Hungary. She heard about the boycott while showing off her Olympic outfit to her club mates. At that point, her coach decided she'd do a world record attempt - a race specifically to set a record, with Den Haan swimming alone against the clock.

Without Den Haan, swimmers from Germany and, ironically, Hungary assumed the mantle of favouritism.

The main beneficiary of the Dutch absence turned out to be Germany’s Ursula Happe. Happe, at 30 years of age and the mother of two children, was much the oldest of the swimming champions of 1956. She had retired from competition in 1955, after falling pregnant for the second time, but backtracked on her decision and decided to train for the Melbourne Olympics. Happe captured the gold medal ahead of Éva Székely of Hungary with another German, Eva-Maria ten Elsen, in third.

In recognition of her win, Happe was voted Germany’s Sportswoman of the Year.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Ursula Happe 30 Germany GER Gold OR
2 Éva Székely 29 Hungary HUN Silver
3 Eva-Maria ten Elsen 19 Germany GER Bronze
4 Vinka Jeričević Yugoslavia YUG
5 Klára Killermann-Bartos 27 Hungary HUN
6 Elenor Gordon-McKay 23 Great Britain GBR
7 Mary Sears 17 United States USA
8 Christine Gosden 17 Great Britain GBR
5 h1 r1/2 Colette Goossens 14 Belgium BEL
5 h2 r1/2 Jytte Hansen 24 Denmark DEN
6 h1 r1/2 Elena Zennaro 14 Italy ITA
6 h2 r1/2 Éva Gérard-Novák 26 Belgium BEL
7 h2 r1/2 Barbara Evans Australia AUS
8 h2 r1/2 Ria Tobing Indonesia INA