swimmer, Olympic champion
born January 31, 1957
Shirley Babashoff is a American competition swimmer, Olympic champion, former world record-holder in multiple events, coach, one of the most distinguished swimmers in history. During her career, she set six world records, 37 (thirty seven) national records, and earned a total of eight individual Olympic medals.
Shirley Babashoff – fate without options
Shirley Frances Babashoff was one of four children of Jack Babashoff, a machinist, and Vera Slivkoff, a homemaker. She was born in in Whittier, California and is a third-generation American: her grand-grandparents came to the United States from Russia in the 1920s or in the 1910s, depending on census data.
Her father was a swimming instructor in Hawaii, and always wanted his children to become Olympic swimmers. This effectively predefined the future of Shirley, her brother Jack, a professional swimmer who would go on to win the silver at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, as well as of her two other siblings, also professional swimmers.
Shirley was the most successful in the family: she won a gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay in both the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, and won the 1975 world championship in both the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle. During her career, she set 37 national records in total. And in 1982, she was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Babashoff was sometimes referred to as "Surly Shirley" by her detractors and called a "sore loser" by the media because she publicly accused her East German opponents of using doping. Later her accusations proved to be correct.
After her swimming career ended, Babashoff coached swimming. She even led the school she had attended – Fountain Valley High School in Fountain Valley, California - to their first ever California Interscholastic Federation Championship in girls' swimming!
On April 30, 2005, Shirley Babashoff received the Olympic Order, the highest award of the Olympic Movement, during the Inaugural Olympic Assembly luncheon.
Babashoff, Shirley. Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures (January 1, 2002).
Paula Edelson (1 January 2002). A to Z of American Women in Sports
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