Meagher, Mary T. (1964—)

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Meagher, Mary T. (1964—)

American swimmer . Pronunciation: MAH-her. Name variations: Mary Meagher-Plant. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, on October 27, 1964; married.

Won three Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly, the 200-meter butterfly, and the 4x100-meter medley relay in Los Angeles (all 1984); won the Olympic bronze in the 200-meter butterfly and the silver in the 4×100 medley relay in Seoul, Korea (1988).

The tenth of eleven children, Mary T. Meagher was born in 1964 in Louisville, Kentucky, and began swimming at a young age. The career of a competitive swimmer is one of the briefest in athletics; few compete past the age of 20. Meagher's specialty was the butterfly, one of swimming's most difficult events. She set her first world record at the Pan American Games in 1979 in the 200-meter butterfly and set another world record not long after in the 100 meters. Meagher was certain she would do well in the upcoming 1980 Olympics, but the United States boycotted the games, which were held in Moscow, because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Even so, her world records of 2:07.01 in the 200 meters and 59.26 in the 100 meters were not broken at the Moscow Olympics. Shortly after, she lowered her records to 2:06.37 and then to 2:05.96 in the 200 meters and to 57.93 in the 100 meters.

Despite her success, the self-effacing Meagher felt depressed after the 1980 boycott, and her performance suffered. She also added 15 pounds to her weight after she enrolled in college. As the 1984 Olympics approached, her resolve returned. She left school to get into condition, though she was not satisfied with her performance at the Olympic trials. Once in Los Angeles, Meagher, fighting off a stomach ailment and bronchitis, surprised herself by winning gold medals in both the 100-meter butterfly (with a time of 59.26) and the 200-meter butterfly (with the third fastest time ever of 2:06.90). With teammates Theresa Andrews, Tracy Caulkins , and Nancy Hogshead , Meagher won a third gold in the 4x100-meter medley relay. She swam the third leg and was the fastest women's "flyleg" ever, turning a half second deficit into a two-body-length lead. In the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Meagher competed once more and walked away with the bronze medal in the 200-meter butterfly and a silver in the 4×100 medley relay. She was 24 years old.


Markel, Robert, Nancy Brooks, and Susan Markel. For the Record. Women in Sports. NY: World Almanac Publications, 1985.

Wallechinsky, David. The Complete Book of the Olympics. NY: Viking, 1988.

Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia