- 20 Oct 1968
- Mexico 1968
Triple gold for medley maestro Hickcox
There were three gold medals and one silver for America's Charles Hickcox, the outstanding medley swimmer of his time.
Born and brought up in Arizona, he went to university in Indiana, where his athletic ability was honed. He was a national champion seven times but it is his Olympic appearances and world records that have earned him a place in swimming legend.
Between 1967 and 1968, Hickcox set eight world records in the space of just 16 months. He was named swimmer of the years in 1968, and acclaimed as one of the sport's all-time greats, and all this at the age of just 21.
In Mexico City, he lived up to his billing. His first race was the 200-metre individual medley, which he won with some ease, finishing a full second ahead of Gregory Buckingham. John Ferris took bronze to complete an all-American podium.
His second gold came in the 400m individual medley, but if the 200m had been a clear victory, this one was another but. Hickcox found himself up against 17-year-old Gary Hall, another prodigiously talented medley swimmer.
Hall had broken the world record earlier that summer; Hickcox had then lowered the mark by a wide margin. The pair were clearly the class of the field and were the two fastest qualifiers. But could the final live up to the expectation?
The answer was yes. The race was a classic, with the two swimmers neck and neck for almost the entire eight lengths. There was never more than half a second between them, as the advantage ticked first one way, then the next. Hickcox seemed to make a decisive break during the breaststroke leg, but Hall pulled him back and they turned together with one length to go.
By now it was about endurance. Both athletes were giving it everything and both were exhausted when they touched at the end, Hickcox eventually winning by 0.3secs.
In between times, he picked up a silver in the backstroke and he then added a third gold by swimming the first leg in the 4x100m relay, in which America broke the world record and won by two and a half seconds.
Like Debbie Meyer, that other glorious American swimming talent of these Games, Hickcox was on top of the sporting world. And, just like Meyer, his first Games was also his last. He returned to university to study law, and later worked in commercial real estate. “I'm just an easy-going guy,” he said of himself. “I like to have a good time.”