Host City: Atlanta, United States
Venue(s): Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Date Started: July 21, 1996
Date Finished: July 21, 1996
It had been 44 years since South Africa had won an Olympic gold medal but in [Penny Heyns] they had the woman who had set the world record four months earlier. Lined up against her were world champion [Sam Riley] of Australia and the precocious 14-year-old [Amanda Beard] of the USA. Riley nearly failed to make it to Atlanta when she failed a drug test in February 1996. Her coach had given her a painkiller to treat a headache without realizing it contained the banned substance dextropropoxyphen. She was subsequently issued only a warning but her coach received a one-year ban.
Heyns’ Olympic campaign started with a bang as she broke her own her world record to qualify for the final but faltered when she made a basic error in the final where she badly mistimed her turn. Beard threatened to take the lead over the home stretch but Heyns fought back and reached the wall with a third of a second to spare over her American rival to the acclaim of her home nation. Riley finished a distant third.