Gould, Shane (1956—)

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Gould, Shane (1956—)

Australian swimmer who took five swimming medals at the Munich Olympics. Name variations: Shane Innes. Born Shane Elizabeth Gould on November 23, 1956, in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia; daughter of Shirley Gould (who wrote a book in 1972 called Swimming the Shane Gould Way); married Neil Innes, in 1974.

Won the 100-meter freestyle in the New South Wales championships (1972) as well as 13 other Australian individual championships and three relay championships; won Olympic gold medals in the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle, and the 200-meter individual medley, a silver medal in the 800-meter freestyle, and a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle, all at Munich (1972).

Shane Gould could swim under water with her eyes closed by age three. By age six, she was taking professional lessons and by age 13 began to specialize in freestyle swimming. Shortly after her 15th birthday, Gould held freestyle world records in the 200-meters, 400-meters, 800-meters, and 1,500-meters. She had raised everyone's expectations and that was the problem. In 1972, Australia decided it was time for her to break the 100-meter record of 58.9 set eight years earlier by fellow Aussie Dawn Fraser . Before the New South Wales championships in Sydney, along with the media buildup, Shane's father tacked a sign on her bedroom door that read "The 58.5 club." People lined the Harbour Bridge to watch Gould race in the North Sydney swimming pool, but she nearly missed the race. "I'd retreated to a room to psych up," she told

David Hemery. "The race was called and because of the pumps I didn't hear and everyone else was undressing and the officials came and said, 'Where have you been, everyone's getting on their box!' I raced out crying by that stage and falling apart inside, the adrenalin was pumping so much when I got on the blocks." She won the race in 58.5.

In the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the 15-year-old Gould won the gold in the 200-meter freestyle in a world record time of 2:03.56, a gold in the 400-meter freestyle in a world record time of 4:19.04, a silver in the 800-meter freestyle in a time of 8:56.39 (Keena Rothhammer of the U.S. won the gold in a world record time of 8:53.68), a gold in the 200-meter individual medley in a world record time of 2:23.07, and a bronze in the 100-meter freestyle, then went home and said she was tired and just wanted to be an ordinary teenager. Gould had a right to be tired. She had just appeared in 12 races, including heats and finals, more than any other woman swimmer in Olympic history, and had given the Aussies their greatest performance by an individual at a single Olympics.

Weary of the relentless routine, 16-year-old Gould announced her retirement. Two years later, she married a 25-year-old Bible student named Neil Innes at an outdoor wedding. "Instead of saying the formal vows," she said, "we made up our own. It seemed to be in line with what we believe. We like the open air and surfing." She and her husband moved to the Margaret River area of Western Australia.

Gould's retirement allowed other swimmers to breathe again. By the time Montreal rolled around four years later, American swimmers were so intent upon stepping out of her shadow that they wore t-shirts that read: "All that glitters is not Gould." Meanwhile Gould, now Innes, reveled in the ordinariness of her life. Her upbringing had taught that swimming was one of many avenues to success: "At the family meal time we'd have a discussion of what each of us did in the day and if I'd report, 'Well, I'd broken a world record,' my younger sister would say, 'Well, I did this drawing,' and my older sister would say, 'Well, I passed my exams but only with a B+' … each of those things was treated as equally terrific."


Hemery, David. The Pursuit of Sporting Excellence. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books, 1986.