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Swimming at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games

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Sports:

Host City: Atlanta, United States
Date Started: July 20, 1996
Date Finished: July 26, 1996
Events: 32

Participants: 762 (416 men and 345 women) from 117 countries
Youngest Participant: CAM Hem Reaksmey (12 years, 320 days)
Oldest Participant: ITA Manuela Dalla Valle (33 years, 186 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 6 athletes with 4 medals
Most Medals (Country): USA United States (26 medals)

Overview

The 1994 World Aquatics Championships had been considered a failure for the American team as their haul included only two individual titles amidst just four gold medals. The story of those championships was the sudden emergence of Chinese women not just as a major force in the sport but as a team with an overwhelming dominance to match the East Germany of the 70s and 80s.

China won 12 of the 16 women's titles in Rome and appeared to be on course to match that achievement in Atlanta.

What happened at the [Georgia Tech Aquatics Center] came as a surprise. The Chinese team that competed in Atlanta was a shadow of what it had been two years earlier and left with only a solitary gold medal to its' name. Instead it was the home nation that provided some of the great moments in the pool. Led by the combative Amy Van Dyken, who won four golds to emerge as the most successful swimmer at the Games, the US took 13 gold medals which was three times as many as the next best nation.

The other great star of the Games came from a nation which had very little heritage of success in the sport. Ireland had competed in swimming since 1928 but had never produced an Olympic finalist in all that time. Suddenly they had a multiple Olympic champion on their hands but not one without a touch of controversy. Before 1994 Michelle Smith was a moderately successful performer who had never reached a major final but, at a relatively late age for a swimmer, she made a vast improvement under the tutelage of her soon-to-be husband Erik de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower who was serving a drug ban at the time. Smith was the outstanding performer at the 1995 European Championships and carried that form into Atlanta where she won three gold medals. Her rise from obscurity was the subject of much speculation during the Games although she passed every drug test in Atlanta. In 1998 she was banned by the International Swimming Federation who alleged that she used alcohol, specifically whiskey, to tamper with her urine sample.

Elsewhere Penny Heyns won both breaststroke titles to become South Africa's first Olympic champion of the post-Apartheid era whilst Krisztina Egerszegi ended her Olympic career with a third successive title over 200 metres backstroke.

On the men's side Aleksandr Popov retained the 50 and 100 metres freestyle titles he had won in Barcelona and was joined as a double champion in Atlanta by his compatriot Denis Pankratov who was unbeatable at butterfly. Danyon Loader was another winner of two Olympic titles in 1996 and, more importantly to those in his home nation, was the first swimmer to win gold in New Zealand colours. His two golds were New Zealand's only successes in the pool. In contrast Germany, although second in the number of medals won with 12, failed to convert any into an Olympic championship.

Medalists

Event Gold Silver Bronze
Men's 50 metres Freestyle RUS Aleksandr Popov USA Gary Hall, Jr. BRA Xuxa Scherer
Men's 100 metres Freestyle RUS Aleksandr Popov USA Gary Hall, Jr. BRA Gustavo Borges
Men's 200 metres Freestyle NZL Danyon Loader BRA Gustavo Borges AUS Daniel Kowalski
Men's 400 metres Freestyle NZL Danyon Loader GBR Paul Palmer AUS Daniel Kowalski
Men's 1,500 metres Freestyle AUS Kieren Perkins AUS Daniel Kowalski GBR Graeme Smith
Men's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay USA United States RUS Russia GER Germany
Men's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay USA United States SWE Sweden GER Germany
Men's 100 metres Backstroke USA Jeff Rouse CUB Rodolfo Falcón CUB Neisser Bent
Men's 200 metres Backstroke USA Brad Bridgewater USA Tripp Schwenk ITA Emanuele Merisi
Men's 100 metres Breaststroke BEL Fred Deburghgraeve USA Jeremy Linn GER Mark Warnecke
Men's 200 metres Breaststroke HUN Norbert Rózsa HUN Károly Güttler RUS Andrey Korneyev
Men's 100 metres Butterfly RUS Denis Pankratov AUS Scott Miller RUS Vladislav Kulikov
Men's 200 metres Butterfly RUS Denis Pankratov USA Tom Malchow AUS Scott Goodman
Men's 200 metres Individual Medley HUN Attila Czene FIN Jani Sievinen CAN Curtis Myden
Men's 400 metres Individual Medley USA Tom Dolan USA Eric Namesnik CAN Curtis Myden
Men's 4 × 100 metres Medley Relay USA United States RUS Russia AUS Australia
Women's 50 metres Freestyle USA Amy Van Dyken CHN Le Jingyi GER Sandra Völker
Women's 100 metres Freestyle CHN Le Jingyi GER Sandra Völker USA Angel Martino
Women's 200 metres Freestyle CRC Claudia Poll GER Franziska van Almsick GER Dagmar Hase
Women's 400 metres Freestyle IRL Michelle Smith GER Dagmar Hase NED Kirsten Vlieghuis
Women's 800 metres Freestyle USA Brooke Bennett GER Dagmar Hase NED Kirsten Vlieghuis
Women's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay USA United States CHN China GER Germany
Women's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay USA United States GER Germany AUS Australia
Women's 100 metres Backstroke USA Beth Botsford USA Whitney Hedgepeth RSA Marianne Kriel
Women's 200 metres Backstroke HUN Krisztina Egerszegi USA Whitney Hedgepeth GER Cathleen Rund
Women's 100 metres Breaststroke RSA Penny Heyns USA Amanda Beard AUS Sam Riley
Women's 200 metres Breaststroke RSA Penny Heyns USA Amanda Beard HUN Ágnes Kovács
Women's 100 metres Butterfly USA Amy Van Dyken CHN Liu Limin USA Angel Martino
Women's 200 metres Butterfly AUS Susie O'Neill AUS Petria Thomas IRL Michelle Smith
Women's 200 metres Individual Medley IRL Michelle Smith CAN Marianne Limpert CHN Lin Li
Women's 400 metres Individual Medley IRL Michelle Smith USA Allison Wagner HUN Krisztina Egerszegi
Women's 4 × 100 metres Medley Relay USA United States AUS Australia CHN China