Martino, Angel (1967—)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Martino, Angel (1967—)

American swimmer and winner of several Olympic gold medals . Name variations: Angel Meyers. Born on April 27, 1967; attended Furman University, in 1980s; married Mike Martino (a swimmer).

Won first place in the national NCAA Division II swim meets (1986); became first American woman to swim 100-meter freestyle in under 55 seconds (1988); won a bronze medal for the 50-meter freestyle, and a gold medal for the 400-meter freestyle relay in Summer Olympic Games, Barcelona, Spain (1992); set world record for the 100-meter backstroke (1993); won gold medals for 400-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter relay, and bronze medals for 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, all in Summer Olympic Games, Atlanta, Georgia (1996).

Competitive swimmer Angel Martino was the oldest female athlete on the U.S. Swim Team assembled for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. A gold-medal winner in the previous Olympics in Barcelona, Martino was encouraged by the cheering crowds of her home state in the Atlanta Games, and her victory capped a decade of both personal triumph and career setback. Martino was born Angel Meyers in 1967. Both her parents were avid swimmers who, when they moved to the small town of Americus, Georgia, were dismayed to find there was no public pool—so they founded one themselves. Martino thus spent much of her youth in the water, swimming competitively, encouraged by her family. At one point in high school, her cheerleading coach complained about the time she devoted to the pool; Martino toyed with the idea of giving up swimming, but her parents convinced her to give up cheerleading instead.

Unable to win a college scholarship despite her talents, Martino attended South Carolina's Furman University, where in 1986 she set national records in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II swim meets. At Furman, she also began dating another swimmer, Mike Martino, and the two started training for the 1988 Olympics together (they would later marry). At the peak of her powers in 1988, Martino became the first American woman to swim the 100-meter freestyle in under 55 seconds. Just two weeks before the start of the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Martino was disqualified from competing because her blood had tested positive for a banned substance. Although she contended that she had not used performance-enhancing drugs, and that the contraceptive pills she was taking had probably caused the positive reading, her appeal was denied. Martino became skeptical about drug tests: "Because of what happened to me, I'm not going to automatically assume that someone is guilty."

Martino decided to restore her reputation simply by continuing to compete and excel. She resumed training, and again qualified for the U.S. Women's Swim Team for the 1992 Summer Games. In Barcelona, she won a bronze medal for the 50-meter freestyle, and a gold medal for the 400-meter freestyle relay. The following year, she set a world record for the 100-meter back-stroke in the Short Course World championships, and in 1995 took first place in the 100-meter freestyle at the Pan American Games.

Martino's greatest restoration of her reputation came with her performance in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. At an age when most competitive swimmers have retired, Martino qualified for a spot on the U.S. team, becoming its senior member. She won gold medals for 400-meter freestyle relay and 400-meter relay, and bronze medals for 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly at the Olympics, and a few days later attended a parade in her honor in her hometown of Americus.

sources:

Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1998.

People Weekly. August 19, 1996, p. 43.

Carol Brennan , Grosse Pointe, Michigan

More From Encyclopedia.com


You Might Also Like