Four Champions, One Gold Medal Exerpts


Nick J. Thierry

Brian Goodell

In September 1972, Brian Goodell began the school year playing football. But Mark Spitz and the Olympics turned his thoughts to swimming. Brian pressed his face into the wind, as he ferociously peddled his 10-speed bike down a hill and prepared to round the corner of a sharp turn. He was rushing home from school in the hope of arriving in time to listen to the live radio broadcast from Munich, where Mark Spitz was trying to win yet another gold medal at the Olympics. Brian raced into the Goodell's home and huddled next to the radio to listen to the live broadcast. Mark Spitz won again, and with another world record. Afterwards, the excited 13-year-old rode his bike to football practice and then back home. In the evening, Brian watched the taped television coverage of Olympic swimming. Spitz's heroics were rebroadcast in prime time, with ABC's Jim McKay calling the races. Brian Goodell was witnessing an Olympic dream come true, and beginning to conceive one of his own.

Tim Shaw

In the middle of February 1975, Tim did interrupt his training for a trip, representing the U.S. at the TILT meet in France. Tim had not lost all of the joy of mischief that he demonstrated on Coach Labonte's team 10 years earlier, and the trip to France represented an opportunity to have a little fun. As he prepared to swim the 200 metre backstroke, he passed the awards table.

On display were the top three awards. First was a men's purse and second was a radio. This was the first meet that Tim had attended where the awards were not medals. He was not in need, nor of the mind, to own a purse. He decided to go out fast, control the field, and then let his American teammate win on the last 50. The race went as planned. On the award stand Tim held his radio, smiled, and looked at his victorious U.S. teammate, joking "Nice purse!"

Bobby Hackett, Stephen Holland,
Olympic Training Camp

At the first day of practice in Canton (June 23, 1976), Bobby Hackett recognized an entirely novel training environment. For the first time in his life, he would be able to train each day in a heated 50 metre pool. Even more importantly, he would benefit from the daily competition he would face from Brian Goodell, Casey Converse, Paul Hartloff, and Mike Bruner. An argument could be made that such competition might predetermine a winner and a loser in competition at the Olympics, based on which individual was the most successful in the training camp. The success of an athlete, particularly at the Olympic level, has a great deal to do with confidence. Should an athlete be beaten in training by a teammate, he might come to believe that his teammate would be unbeatable in the competition. Part of the art of coaching in such a training camp, just as it can be within one's own team, is creating a competitive training environment among the swimmers while giving each athlete the opportunity to succeed.

For Coach Gambril this meant using enough familiar sets for each individual so he would have the best chance to swim the fastest of the group on such a set. For Bobby Hackett, as well as many of the team members, the motivation to help his team achieve restrained his desire for individual glory alone. The distance group happily worked together in preparation for the best possible performance in Montreal, both as individuals and as a team.

The distance group was frequently the topic of conversation among the team. It was clear that Stephen Holland represented a formidable obstacle for the team to meet its goal of winning every gold medal. Posted on the team bulletin board was a clipping from an Australian newspaper. Included was a quote from Stephen Holland: "If all Goodell is going to do is go 15:06, he might as well not show up for the Olympics." Stephen was being true to his brash exterior in making the statement, which outwardly showed disregard for Brian's rapid improvement. Internally he knew Brian would be very tough competition. Stephen Holland was completing some of the best training of his life in the Australian camp. During one great session he completed a set of 4 x 4 x 400 on a five-minute send-off. He held a tight descent on the last set, swimming 4:02s on the first three and a 4:01 on the final repeat. This was within only 4 seconds of his best shaved and tapered 400. "I just couldn't get tired that day," Stephen remembered. "That was the most amazing set of 400s I've ever done." Unfortunately, however, friction was growing between Stephen Holland and the Australian staff.

Exerpts courtesy of the author Chuck Warner