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Swimming at the 1948 London Summer Games:

Women's 200 metres Breaststroke

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Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): Wembley Arena, Wembley, London
Date Started: July 30, 1948
Date Finished: August 3, 1948

Gold: NED Nel van Vliet
Silver: AUS Nancy Lyons
Bronze: HUN Ã‰va Gérard-Novák


While American contestants had vied for and, more often than not, won medals in the other events in the programmes, the women’s breaststroke uniquely saw nobody from the US team reach even the semi-final. The favourite for the gold was the 22 year old Dutchwoman, [Nel van Vliet], who had not even learned to swim until the age of sixteen. Although she was the world record holder, her path to the represent the Netherlands in international competition was not smooth. Her father had not registered her birth and a passport could not be obtained until he appeared in court and paid a fine. Van Vliet broke the Olympic record in her heat but the two Hungarian Évas, [Székely] and [Novák], were also in fine form as was the Australian schoolgirl [Nancy Lyons]. Éva Székely set the pace in the final but her butterfly technique soon faltered and the duo of Van Vliet and Novák moved away from the rest of the field. The race developed into a duel between the two and it was not until the final length that van Vliet moved clear of her rival. In third place at the start of the final 50m was Lyons. She had already moved through from fifth to fourth to third and now she would make an last desperate to catch the leaders. Moving past a tiring Novák she surged onwards and at the end of the race was only a half second behind the winner Van Vliet. Shortly after returning home, Van Vliet’s medal was stolen from her parent's home. It was only in 2004 that she was awarded a replacement medal by Dutch IOC member [Erica Terpstra], herself an Olympic swimmer.

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