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Swimming at the 1976 Montréal Summer Games:

Women's 800 metres Freestyle

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Host City: Montréal, Canada
Venue(s): Olympic Pool, Montréal, Québec
Date Started: July 24, 1976
Date Finished: July 25, 1976

Gold: GDR Petra Thümer
Silver: USA Shirley Babashoff
Bronze: USA Wendy Weinberg

Summary

In 1974-75 the top distance swimmer in the world was Australian [Jenny Turrell], who won the 1975 World Championships in Cali, Colombia, and set the 800 freestyle world record in London in March. She had also set five world records in the 1,500 freestyle, a non-Olympic event. But in 1976, East German Petra Thümer had broken Turrell’s 800 record with 8:40.68 in Berlin in June. Seventeen days later that mark was bettered by American Shirley Babashoff, who had been runner-up to Turrell at the 1975 Worlds. The three were expected to contest the medals in the 800 freestyle in Montréal, but Turrell had shoulder problems coming into the Olympics and was not as good as she had been in 1975.

Thümer qualified fastest followed by surprise American Nicole Kramer. Babashoff won heat three, closely trailed by Turrell. The final was led by Canadian Shannon Smith through the first 300 metres, but Babashoff and Thümer then took over. They were in lanes 4-5, swimming as doubles, with two-beat kicks and bi-lateral breathing, and there was never open water between them. But in the end, the result was the same as it had been five days earlier in the 400 freestyle, Thümer winning gold in world record time (8:37.14), with Babashoff in second, also under the old world mark. The bronze went to the unheralded American Wendy Weinberg. Turrell was never a factor as she struggled home in last place in the final.

Final Standings

Rank Athlete Age Team NOC Medal
1 Petra Thümer 15 East Germany GDR Gold WR
2 Shirley Babashoff 19 United States USA Silver
3 Wendy Weinberg 18 United States USA Bronze
4 Rosemary Milgate 17 Australia AUS
5 Nicole Kramer 14 United States USA
6 Shannon Smith 14 Canada CAN
7 Regina Jäger 15 East Germany GDR
8 Jenny Turrall 16 Australia AUS
3 h1 r1/2 Lisa Geary 14 Canada CAN
4 h1 r1/2 Allison Calder 16 New Zealand NZL
4 h2 r1/2 Wendy Quirk 17 Canada CAN
4 h3 r1/2 Annelies Maas 16 Netherlands NED
5 h1 r1/2 Carine Verbauwen 14 Belgium BEL
5 h2 r1/2 Eleonora Pandini 16 Italy ITA
5 h3 r1/2 Tracey Wickham 13 Australia AUS
6 h1 r1/2 Laura Bortolotti 16 Italy ITA
6 h2 r1/2 Fernanda Pérez 15 Colombia COL
6 h3 r1/2 Antonia Real 12 Spain ESP
7 h3 r1/2 Diana Hatler 12 Puerto Rico PUR
AC h2 r1/2 Maria Guimarães 17 Brazil BRA DQ