Caulkins, Tracy (1963—)

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Caulkins, Tracy (1963—)

American swimmer and Olympic gold medalist. Born in Winona, Minnesota, on January 11, 1963; daughter of Martha Caulkins (a junior-high art teacher) and Thomas Caulkins (a group testing coordinator for the public schools); grew up in Nashville, Tennessee; attended Harpeth Hall Academy; attended University of Florida, 1981–1985.

Was the youngest recipient of the Sullivan Memorial Trophy at 16 (1979); won 48 titles, becoming the most victorious woman swimmer in history (1981), eclipsing the records of Ann Curtis; won 200-meter and 400-meter individual medleys in the Pan American Games (1982); won three gold medals—the 200-meter individual medley, 400-meter individual medley, and the 400-meter relay—in the Summer Olympics, Los Angeles (1984); set NCAA records in four individual events (200-meter individual medley, 400-meter individual medley, 100-meter breaststroke, and 200-meter butterfly) and two relay events (800-meter freestyle and 400-meter freestyle); awarded Broderick Cup as outstanding collegiate athlete of the year (1983, 1984); selected by U.S. Olympic Committee as "female athlete of the year" (1984); elected to the Women's Sports Hall of Fame (1986); inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1990).

In 1980, when President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott of the Olympic games because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, countless American athletic careers were affected, including that of swimmer Tracy Caulkins. She would overcome this temporary setback, however, and, unlike other athletes who peaked during the boycotted games, win Olympic gold in 1984.

Caulkins was eight when she began swimming at the Seven Hills Club in Nashville, Tennessee, the city to which her family had moved subsequent to her birth in Minnesota. By age ten, she had made the nation's top ten in her age bracket in several events; at 12, she qualified for the senior nationals. Because her frequent school absences due to national competition were frowned upon, she left public junior high school to attend the private Harpeth Hall Academy in Nashville where she could both study and swim competitively. In 1976, Caulkins failed in her attempt to make the Olympic swim team. A year later, she defeated East Germany's Andrea Pollack in the 200-meter butterfly at the U.S.-East Germany meet, a particularly sweet victory as Pollack had recently won the Olympic gold medal in that event.

Pollack, Andrea (1961—)

East German Olympic swimmer. Born on May 8, 1961.

In 1976, Andrea Pollack won two silvers (in the 100-meter butterfly and 4×100-meter freestyle) and two golds (in the 200-meter butterfly and the 4×100 medley relay) in the Montreal Olympics. That year, the powerful East German women's swimming team won 11 out of 13 events. In the Moscow Olympics in 1980, Pollack won another silver in the 100-meter butterfly. Andrea Pollack set two world records in the butterfly within a day of each other, with a time of 59.46 in the 100 meters on July 3, 1978, and a time of 2:09.87 in the 200 meters on July 4, 1978.

In 1977, Caulkins won the U.S. Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championship, setting records in the 100-meter and 100-yard short course breaststroke and in the 200- and 400-meter long-course individual medley. In 1977 and 1978, she was named SW Swimmer of the Year. During 1978, she broke or tied 27 American and world swimming records, and in the world championships (West Berlin, Germany), she won three gold medals in both individual medleys and the 200-meter butterfly and a silver in the 100-meter breaststroke. At 16, she was the youngest recipient of the Sullivan Memorial Trophy as the outstanding American amateur athlete.

In 1980, Caulkins qualified for the Olympic swimming team, but the American boycott ended her hopes of participating. That same year, she was named American Swimmer of the Year and won the J.H. Kiphuth Award. In 1981, she eclipsed the records held by Ann Curtis , the outstanding female swimmer of the 1940s. The following year, Caulkins was the top amateur swimmer, male or female. Her awards included World's American Female Swimmer in 1981, WSF Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1981, the Southland Olympia Award in 1982, the Broderick Award as best collegiate woman swimmer in 1982, and The Swimming All-American teams award in 1982 and 1983.

The dolphin kick was Caulkin's specialty, and she gained leverage from her hyperextended knees. Known for her carefree personality, she made winning look easy and, by early 1984, had 48 national and 62 American swimming titles. During her career at the University of Florida from 1981 to 1985, she won 12 NCAA titles. When the 1984 Los Angeles Games arrived, Caulkins was ready. She set an Olympic record in the 200-meter individual medley in 2:12.64, winning a gold medal. In the 400-meter individual medley, she won another gold in 4:39.24. The 400-meter medley relay was hers for a third gold. In 1986, Caulkins was elected to the Women's Sports Hall of Fame.

Karin L. Haag , Athens, Georgia