Swimming Through Adversity
The son of a truck driver, Michael Jay Burton's swimming career began when, at the age of thirteen, he was hit head-on by a truck while bicycling.
After spending eight weeks in a hospital with a dislocated hip and torn ligaments in his right leg, he was told that swimming was the only sport he could pursue. Burton qualified for the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in two events.
The day before the qualifying heats for the 400m, Burton woke up feeling nauseated and later fainted in an elevator in the Olympic Village. He qualified anyway.
In the final, Burton took charge before the halfway mark and pulled away to win by more than 2 ½ seconds. Three days later, Burton, now fully recovered, won the 1,500m by 18.4 seconds, a margin of victory that has not been matched since.
Burton returned to the Olympics in 1972 to defend his 1,500m title. This time, he moved ahead of Graham Windeatt of Australia after 1,200m and just barely set a world record to secure the third gold medal of his career.