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16 Oct 1964
Tokyo 1964

Ferguson heads glittering backstroke field


The final of the women’s 100m backstroke was a glittering line-up. It matched six past and present world record holders at various backstroke distances, an array of talent that has rarely been matched.

Kiki Caron, of France, was just 16 years old but had set a world best only a few months before. She might have considered herself the favourite at the time, only for her record to be beaten by the American Ginny Duenkel a couple of weeks before the Games. Satoko Tanaka of Japan was another contender, along with Britain’s Jill Norfolk and Linda Ludgrove – both of whom had also broken a world record.

In the end, Caron and Duenkel both made the podium and left with medals – but neither won. That honour went to the sixth in our list of world record-holders - America’s Cathy Ferguson.

Ferguson was another youthful prodigy. She was only 16 years old during the Tokyo Games, and had broken the 200m record a month beforehand. Here, by a margin of just 0.2secs, she edged victory to secure her second world record, and her first gold medal.

Another gold came in the 4x100m medley relay, where she swam the opening backstroke leg to put the USA into a lead they never lost. The time, once again, was a world record.

It was to prove Ferguson’s only Olympic Games. She retired with a remarkable record of having entered two events, and coming away with two golds and two world records in the process. She later coached other swimmers while her daughter Allison won a national title in diving.

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