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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | Spotlight

The Last Of Sheila

A look at the day that was and at what lies ahead at the Summer Games

July 27, 1996|BILL PLASCHKE

Sheila Taormina, 27, became the first masters division swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal Thursday . . . and it aged her about 10 years.

Taormina swam the third leg in the gold-medal women's 800 relay team, even though, 12 hours earlier, she didn't even know if coaches would allow her in the water.

Utilizing the rule that allows teams to change all four relay members between the preliminaries and the finals, the U.S. told the four morning swimmers that only one of them would join top talents Jenny Thompson, Trina Jackson and Cristina Teuscher in the evening.

By swimming the fastest 200-meter split time in the morning--a 2:00.57--Taormina was summoned in the early afternoon with the news.

"They made all of us warm down and get ready, and then they told me I was in," she said.

Nice retirement present.

"I knew I was retiring either way, after the morning race, or evening race," she said. "I did the easy part."

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