Golden girl Beth Botsford: First U.S. female gold medalist of centennial Games.

July 26, 1996

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for Timonium's Beth Botsford, who this week put two gold medals around her neck and put her hometown and swim club on the map. The NTC 15-year-old swimmer, with a yen for Sesame Street puppets, became the first American woman to win gold in an Olympiad noted for its abundance of female talent.

She was first in the 100-meter backstroke Monday and led the victorious 4x100 medley relay team Wednesday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. Alas, she failed to qualify yesterday for the finals in what was deemed her most promising event, the 200-meter backstroke.

But her performance had already delivered much joy to the Baltimore area and helped solidify the swimming world's regard for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where she trains. The club's roster of alumni includes Anita Nall, who won medals of each tint in Barcelona in 1992, and Theresa Andrews, who won two golds at the 1984 games in Los Angeles. Another NBAC member, Whitney Metzler, did swimmingly in Atlanta last weekend by capturing eighth place in the finals of the 400-meter individual medley.

The success of these swimmers is a tribute to coach Murray Stevens, whose Mt. Washington pool churns out age-group records faster than someone can say, "Why in the world is John Tesh doing gymnastics commentary?"

And as with many young Olympians, Beth's golds also reflect on the dedication of her parents, Elaine and Kevin, who rearrange their lives for pre-dawn practices and the like. Fortunately, due to the proximity of the North Baltimore facility, they needn't ship off their daughter to live, eat and breathe the backstroke half a continent away to aspire to be an Olympian.

The public might not comprehend the intricacies of competitive swimming, much less the more obscure Olympic events that get aired after prime-time. But the ability of competitors such as Beth Botsford or injured U.S. gymnast Kerri Strug to thrive on a world stage under such crushing pressure is what keeps us riveted to the tube.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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