Host City: Melbourne, Australia
Venue(s): Olympic Park Swimming and Diving Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Date Started: November 29, 1956
Date Finished: November 30, 1956
|Bronze:||Eva-Maria ten Elsen|
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 Sadly for the Dutchwoman, it was already known that she would not be going to Melbourne as the Dutch team had been withdrawn from the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Hungary.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.