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28 Jul 1952
Helsinki 1952

Szőke spearheads charge of Hungary's women in the pool

With the Soviet Union making its Olympic debut, and German and Japanese athletes returning to the competition, the women’s swimming events at Helsinki 1952 were of an especially high calibre. But it was the Hungarians who remained the undisputed superpower.

While their male counterparts toiled, failing to win a single medal in five events, the Hungarian women claimed nine of the 15 medals on offer, including four out of five golds.

Their races produced plenty of thrills, but none could match the drama offered up by the 100m freestyle. Hungary's main hopes lay with a 16-year-old called Katalin Szőke. She had been swimming since she was a baby, so her relative youth belied a vast experience.

Szőke came through the first round with ease, but her semi-final was much closer with the top three all recording the same time. South Africa's Joan Harrison was declared the winner, with Szőke second.

The other semi-final was even quicker, setting up a final that was likely to be intensely competitive.

It was another Hungarian swimmer, Judit Temes who set the pace, and as they approached the finish, there was little to separate the top six swimmers. Temes was eventually passed by Harrison 10 metres from the end, but then Szőke burst through to take the lead as they reached for the wall.

Johanna Termeulen of the Netherlands took silver, with Temes in third. Harrison, who had seemed set for gold just a few seconds earlier, didn't even finish on the podium, as just half a second separated the top six finishers.

Szőke went on to take another gold in the freestyle relay and would later win two European championships and set four world records.

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