Host City: Atlanta, United States
Venue(s): Georgia Tech Aquatic Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Date Started: July 20, 1996
Date Finished: July 20, 1996
In the two years since the last World Championship Dai Guohong, the world champion, had drifted away from top level competition and so the focus of the world shifted onto the attempt of Krisztina Egerszegi to defend her Olympic title and the efforts of American Allison Wagner to deny the Hungarian a piece of Olympic history.
Another contender was Michelle Smith of Ireland, who had placed second to Egerszegi at the 1995 European Championships, in addition to having won two gold medals at the meeting. History was not on Smith’s side as no Irish swimmer had ever won a race at the Olympic Games - let alone qualify for a final. Smith ended that streak by winning heat three and progressing as third fastest qualifier.
The Irishwoman then went to win the final with comparative ease and finished three seconds ahead of Wagner with Egerszegi a close third.
Not only was Smith’s win the first by a Irish swimmer it was also the first time an Irish female Olympian had won any kind of medal in the history of the Games. Still there were many critics who saw her development from also-ran to world beater with a degree of suspicion. Smith had competed at two previous Olympics without ever getting past the heat stages and had only began achieving success after meeting Erik de Bruin, a Dutch discus thrower who was serving a ban for a doping violation, and her future husband.
Her supporters would point to the fact that de Bruin had revolutionized her training regime but there were always whispers that her performances were only achieved due to illegal methods. Smith won two more European titles in 1997, before her career came to a sudden halt in January 1998. In an out-of-competition drug test, she handed in a urine sample that had enough whiskey in it to kill a normal human being. This was considered enough evidence to convict her of tampering with the sample and she was banned for two years. After the ban ended she did not return to competition but instead qualified as a lawyer.
|2||Allison Wagner||18||United States||USA||Silver|
|8||Whitney Metzler||18||United States||USA|
|10||Hana Černá||22||Czech Republic||CZE|
|16||Pavla Chrástová||17||Czech Republic||CZE|
|19||Sarah Hardcastle||27||Great Britain||GBR|
|24||Anna Wilson||19||New Zealand||NZL|
|28||Lee Ji-Hyeon||14||South Korea||KOR|
|29||Hsieh Shu-Tzu||15||Chinese Taipei||TPE|