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Swimming at the 1988 Seoul Summer Games:

Women's 50 metres Freestyle

Swimming at the 1988 Summer Games: Next Summer Games


Host City: Seoul, South Korea
Venue(s): Indoor Swimming Pool, Olympic Park, Seoul
Date Started: September 25, 1988
Date Finished: September 25, 1988

Gold: GDR Kristin Otto
Silver: CHN Yang Wenyi
Bronze: GDR Katrin Meißner
USA Jill Sterkel


This was the first time that women swam the 50 free at the Olympics, although it had been on the program at the 1986 World Championships. The favorites were China’s [Yang Wenyi], who had set the world record of 24.98 earlier in 1988, and Romania’s [Tamara Costache], the 1986 World Champion and 1987 European Champion, and a three-time world record setter. To date the pool at the Seoul Olympics had been the personal property of East German [Kristin Otto], who had already won five gold medals. She had been second in the 50 free at 86 Worlds, but was considered a longshot in this event.

There were two false starts in the final and some thought that this bothered Yang. She still held the lead with Otto for much of the race, but Otto just touched her out in 25.49, winning her very surprising sixth gold medal in Seoul. Costache was a non-factor, placing sixth. The bronze medals were shared by 15-year-old East German [Katrin Meißner] and the relatively ancient 27-year-old American [Jill Sterkel], who both finished in 25.71. Sterkel had last won an Olympic medal 12 years ago, in Montréal, a gold in the freestyle relay. She had only made the US team when [Angel Myers] was disqualified after the US Olympic Trials for a positive drug test. The fifth-place finisher was another American, [Leigh Ann Fetter], a freshman at the University of Texas, where her assistant coach was Sterkel.

In 1994 it was revealed that Otto had been a part of the long-time East German doping conspiracy as she had been given drugs by her coaches throughout her career. Otto denied any knowledge of this however, and stated that her performances were due not to the drugs, but to her hard work.

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