Skip to main content
Original Issue


Not even appendicitis could stop the determined young swimmers who made the 1960 U. S. Olympic team

Name after name was hammered up on the big white board listing the names of those who made the U.S. Olympic swimming team as last week's trials progressed. During four days 40,000 people filed in and out of Detroit's Brennan Pools watching—and waiting. Through dozens of outstanding performances which proved that the U.S. has not only returned as a world swimming power but also has greater championship depth than any nation in the world, Australia included, the crowd looked for one man and one moment: Jeff Farrell and the race that would make him a member of the team. The fastest freestyle sprinter in the world, a "shoo-in to win at Rome" (as his coach Bob Kiphuth put it), Farrell, in a stunning reversal, had been put into the hospital by an emergency appendectomy six days before. Now, unbelievably, he was back—and swimming.

By Friday, the last night of the four-day competition, he had swum five races—without making the squad. Now he had reached the finals of the 200-meter freestyle, his last chance. An hour before the race, Farrell, who remained gracious and uncomplaining throughout his ordeal, smiled thinly when a friend asked him if a good joke might help to relax him. "Right now," he replied, "there are only two things I don't like: laughing and sneezing. Those are the two things that hurt my stomach." Gently he patted his tightly taped abdomen and added, "I won't be giving anybody any handicap tonight." When the eight finalists for the men's 200-meter freestyle filed through the white picket gate and onto the starting deck cries of "Come on, Jeff" filled the dark night air. While his rivals relaxed during the prerace announcements, Farrell curled his toes tightly around the edge of the brown cord mat that covered the starting block and stood motionless, a tall, thin figure staring into the shimmering, brightly illuminated green water. When the gun sounded he got off to his best start of the week (earlier, instead of using a flat racing dive he had plunged gently and deeply into the pool so as not to aggravate the healing incision). He settled back into the pack, picked up precious feet at each turn by throwing himself into a knot-tight somersault, and in the last 20 meters found, somewhere, the energy to lift himself high enough in the foaming water to drive into the light blue finish wall in fourth place, good enough for a spot on the U.S. Olympic relay team.

The crowd had seen what they had waited to see, and Farrell got a standing ovation. His performance climaxed a night already made notable by three young ladies from the Santa Clara Swim Club, whose coach, a handsome, youthful looking 36-year-old named George Haines, is also coach of the U.S. women's team. Chris von Saltza, whose astounding improvement this summer has the Australians rushing to re-evaluate their gold medal count, reached the high point of her career by powering to a world record of 4:45.5 in the 400-meter freestyle. Haines was so excited when he saw her time as she passed the 300-meter mark that he bolted from his seat, raced down the side of the pool screaming "Go, Chris, go!", and almost fell in as he rounded the corner of the pool to congratulate her. As she climbed from the pool, her blue racing suit glistening in the staccato flash of a dozen cameras, the poised, 16-year-old blonde laughed and said, "Wait'll Ilsa Konrads hears this." Her new record time is so fast that it would have won the men's national title only seven years ago.

An hour after Von Saltza's race another Haines pupil, Lynn Burke, 17, smashed the world backstroke record for the third time in two weeks. Fifteen-year-old Ann Warner, who completes the Santa Clara trio, won both the 100-and 200-meter breaststroke races at the trials.

The girls from Santa Clara are close in friendship as well as in performance. All three have spent this year living at the Von Saltza home in Saratoga, Calif. in order to train under Haines twice a day.

The pressure on the swimmers in these trials was particularly intense because only two swimmers could qualify in each event, except for the relays. This limitation was established by the international committee which governs swimming, and it passed primarily because most countries, foreseeing America's quality in numbers, wanted to minimize this potential U.S. advantage. That they anticipated correctly was amply demonstrated in the men's 400-meter freestyle where all eight finalists qualified in less than 4 minutes and 30 seconds, a time bettered by only one swimmer in Olympic history—Australia's Murray Rose in 1956.

Thus it was that tension was so great at Brennan Pools last week that the athletes renamed the vast, three-pool layout Pressure City. Mike Troy, world-record holder in the butterfly, sat at poolside before his race with his hands squeezed so tightly that his fingers turned purple. But he went out and broke his own record, then exclaimed, "Boy, was I scared. I don't think the Olympics could scare me half as much. I never want to go through that again."

"Relief, relief," smiled George Breen, a repeater from the 1956 team who had been unable to sleep at all the night before he finished second in the 1,500-meter freestyle.

Two handsome Californians, one male, one female, both world-record holders, had to overcome an especially frustrating obstacle. George Harrison, 21, and Donna de Varona, 13, excel in the individual medley, that odd race which embraces four strokes in one event. But the medley is not on the Olympic schedule, so each had to find another race in which to qualify. Each did so, on the very last night in the final relay trials—but not before enduring the agony of just missing in their respective 100-and 400-meter freestyle divisions.

Platinum-haired Lance Larson of Los Angeles, a relentless competitor who emerged as America's new hope in the men's 100-meter freestyle, was as concerned over missing in the butterfly as he was elated at winning the 100. Another white-haired Angeleno, 14-year-old Carolyn House, leaped out of the water like a hooked trout after finishing second in the 400. "I just had to go faster because I wanted to make it so much," she exclaimed.

The determination of competitors like these, the guts of men like Farrell and the quiet confidence of champions like double winner Alan Somers (400 and 1,500 freestyle) and Backstrokers Bob Bennett and Frank McKinney (SI, July 18) are what make the survivors of Pressure City the strongest Olympic swimming team the U.S. ever produced.





Boundless relief is reflected in the smile of Paula Jean Myers Pope, 25, moments after she won the three-meter diving competition at the Olympic trials. After knifing cleanly into the water on her 10th and last dive, "P.J.," who will be making her third Olympic trip, burst high above the surface as she came up and, knowing she had won, called happily, "Where's my husband?" He appeared in time to collect one quick, damp kiss before his recent bride borrowed a dime and danced away. "I gotta call Mom," she laughed. Two days later Mrs. Pope won the 10-meter platform dive as well and was joined by Mrs. Juno Stover Irwin, 31-year-old mother of four children and the first person ever to make four U.S. Olympic swimming teams. Also on the women's diving squad is 19-year-old Patsy Willard (SI, July 25), who qualified just five weeks after a diving mishap left her with a head wound requiring 57 stitches.