Babashoff, Shirley (1957—)

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Babashoff, Shirley (1957—)

American swimmer who set world freestyle records for the 200 and 400 meters. Pronunciation: BA-buhshoff. Born Shirley Frances Babashoff in Whittier, California, on January 31, 1957; daughter of Vera (Slevkoff) and Jack Babashoff.

Won Olympic silver medals in the 200-meter and 100-meter freestyle and the gold medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay in Munich, 1972; won silver medals in the 200-meter, 400-meter, and 800-meter freestyle, and 4x100-meter relay, and the gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay in Montreal, 1976.

In the 1972 Munich Olympics, 19 participants came from towns in Southern California, including Mission Viejo, a planned community

intent on providing children with athletic opportunities. One of those participants was Shirley Babashoff. After beginning competitive swimming at age nine, Shirley Babashoff swam at the Mission Viejo Swimming Complex under Coach Mark Schubert. At 13, she attained national championship status.

In 1974, Babashoff set world freestyle records: 2:2.94 in the 200 meters and 4:15.77 in the 400 meters. For three successive years, from 1973 to 1975, she won the 200-meter freestyle Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) outdoor championship. In 1975, she defeated Kornelia Ender of East Germany, the world recordholder, in the 200-meter freestyle. Later that year, Babashoff won the 400-meter freestyle in 4:14.76—another world record.

In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Babashoff earned a gold medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay and a silver in both the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events. (Sandra Neilson of the U.S. placed first in the 100, while Shane Gould of Australia took gold in the 200.) In Montreal in 1976, Babashoff again earned a gold medal in the 4×100 freestyle relay, silver medals in the 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle events, and a silver in the 400-meter relay. (Gold medals were won by East Germany's Kornelia Ender in the 200, and Petra Thuemer in the 400 and 800.) In 1987, Babashoff was named to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Karin L. Haag , Athens, Georgia