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Focused Cohen blasts to double gold

Tiffany Cohen embodied the grit and determination needed to win swimming glory at the very highest level.

She also represents how fleeting and brief success at the top can be, with a short blast of intensity she left an indelible mark on the Olympic Games of Los Angeles in 1984.

Cohen took up swimming at the age of eight and it was clear to her early tutors that they were dealing with something of a prodigy.

She competed in her first national championships at the age of 13, and her rising stock saw her move to college in California a year later to enhance her chances of success.

Legend has it that such was Cohen’s focus and commitment that she wore her swimsuit underneath her graduation garments so that she could make a hasty exit and return to the training she loved once the college ceremony was over.

She trained six hours a day, six days a week, cramming in her studies in the tiny gaps between her intense regime.

She was a prodigious distance swimmer and as the world’s finest convened on the Olympic venue in downtown Los Angeles, she was considered one of the hot favourites despite only just celebrating her 18th birthday.

First up at the Olympic Swim Stadium was the 400m. Cohen burst into an early lead and was never headed.

She finished five metres ahead of Britain’s Sarah Hardcastle and was met with thunderous noise from the home crowd as she touched home on the final wall in an Olympic record time.

Three days later and an equally convincing victory in the 800m, this time Cohen winning by almost six seconds ahead of fellow American Michele Richardson.

However, Cohen’s time at the sport’s pinnacle was brief. With her own form plateauing and the emergence of the great Janet Evans, who smashed both distance world records at the 1988 Games in Seoul, she decided to retire at the age of 21 in 1987.

Her time in the limelight was brief, but the two victories in Los Angeles will live long in the memory of those who witnessed them.

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