CBC Digital Archives

Montreal Olympics: Garapick swims for Canada

Montreal's unforgettable '76 Olympics had more ups and downs than a high jump competition. From out-of-control financial disasters and controversial political boycotts, to Nadia Comaneci's "perfect 10" and Canadian high jumper Greg Joy's exciting final jump — Montreal's Games had Canadians on the edge of their seats. CBC Archives looks back at the 1976 Olympics: their preparations, their competitions and their continued impact on Montreal.

The people of Halifax have sent 14-year-old swimmer Nancy Garapick "a telegram of good wishes 27 feet long," announces CBC broadcaster Lloyd Robertson. The 100-metre backstroke race is just about to begin, and Halifax's Garapick is favoured to win a medal. But first, the CBC fills us in on the life of this humble teenage swimmer. In this clip, she discusses her Olympic dreams, as well as the difficulties of completing your homework when you're an Olympic-level swimmer.
• Nancy Garapick won two bronze medals for swimming during the Montreal Olympics; one for the 100-metre backstroke and one for the 200-metre backstroke.
• Canada had high Olympic expectations for Garapick, who had been the world record holder for the 200-metre backstroke (at 2:16:33, set in 1975) for a little while until East German swimmer Birgit Treiber broke that record later in 1975.

• In both of Garapick's bronze medal-winning races, she was beaten out by two East German swimmers.
• East German women won 11 of the 13 gold medals awarded for swimming during the 1976 Games.

• In 1998, it came out that East Germany had been administering a systematic, state-endorsed doping program for its competitive athletes between the early 1970s and the 1990s. When this news broke, several Canadian newspapers pointed out that Garapick would have won two gold medals if the communist country's cheating had been revealed at the time. In July 1998, the Globe and Mail wrote: "If any athlete was truly wronged by cheating in the pool, it was clearly Garapick."

• The East German women were suspected of steroid use during the 1976 Games, but they weren't caught at the time.
• The 1976 Olympic Games was the first Games to include steroid testing, which was done on a random basis. Three athletes were disqualified for steroids in 1976 -- two male weightlifters (one from the United States and one from Czechoslovakia) and one female discus thrower from Poland.

• When American swimmer Shirley Bashaboff accused some of her East German rivals of steroid use because of their huge muscles and deep voices, an East German official denied the charges and responded, "They came here to swim, not to sing."

• Overall, Canadians expected great things from all of the Canadian female swimmers in 1976.
• Canada's female swimmers won seven of Canada's 11 medals. In addition to Garapick's two bronzes, swimmers Shannon Smith and Becky Smith each won a bronze, Cheryl Gibson won a silver medal, and Canada won two bronzes for women's relays.

• Nancy Garapick didn't win any more Olympic medals in the future, since the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games caused her to miss out on another Olympic chance. She was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame in 1986.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Sports
Broadcast Date: July 21, 1976
Guest(s): Nancy Garapick
Host: Lloyd Robertson
Duration: 1:39

Last updated: July 30, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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