| Event type

100 metres Backstroke, Women

Date29 – 31 July 1952
LocationHelsingin Uimastadion, Helsinki
Participants20 from 14 countries

There was a clear favourite for the 100m Backstroke in the form of the eighteen year old Dutchwoman Geertje Wielema but Wielema was taken ill with anaemia and barely trained in the months before the Games. Despite these problems Wielema set an Olympic record in the semi-final. The final turned into a straight battle between Wielema and sixteen year old Joan Harrison of South Africa who had narrowly missed a medal in the 100m freestyle. Wielema and Harrison, swimming in lanes four and five respectively were level as they approached the wall but Harrison’s finish was better and the decision of the judges was to award the gold to the South African. It was a desperately close finish and not all of the officials were in agreement. Wielema herself believed she a quick glance to see where her rival was may have cost the vital fraction of a second needed for her to win. Dutch disappointment was compounded when Jean Stewart of New Zealand beat Joke de Korte to the bronze in another extremely close finish and also when Ria van der Horst was disqualified by making an illegal turn. Harrison won four medals at the 1954 Commonwealth Games before retiring at the age of just seventeen while Wielema was both European champion and Dutch Sportsperson of the year for the year 1954. Wielema would have been a strong contender for further Olympic honours in 1956 had it not been for the withdrawal of the Dutch team.

1Joan HarrisonRSA1:14.7 (1 h3)1:14.3 (1)Gold
2Geertje WielemaNED1:13.8 (1 h1)1:14.5 (2)Silver
3Jean StewartNZL1:16.0 (2 h1)1:15.8 (3)Bronze
4Joke de KorteNED1:15.8 (2 h3)1:15.8 (4)
5Barbara StarkUSA1:17.9 (4 h1)1:16.2 (5)
6Gertrud HerrbruckGER1:17.8 (2 h2)1:18.0 (6)
7Margaret McDowallGBR1:17.5 (3 h1)1:18.4 (7)
AC r2/2Ria van der HorstNED1:17.0 (1 h2)– (AC)DQ
9Mary FreemanUSA1:18.0 (3 h2)
=10Pauline MusgraveGBR1:19.6 (3 h3)
=10Magdolna HunyadfyHUN1:19.6 (4 h3)
12Coralie O'ConnorUSA1:19.7 (5 h3)
13Edith de OliveiraBRA1:20.0 (4 h2)
14Gerda OlsenDEN1:20.1 (5 h1)
15Anneli HaaranenFIN1:21.7 (6 h1)
16Margareta WestesonSWE1:22.7 (6 h3)
17Lenora FisherCAN1:22.9 (5 h2)
18Erna HerbersGER1:23.1 (7 h3)
19Irena MilnikielPOL1:25.5 (6 h2)
20Doris GontersweilerSUI1:26.5 (7 h2)
DNSJudit TemesHUN– (DNS h1)
DNSDolly NazirIND– (DNS h1)
DNSIlona NovákHUN– (DNS h2)
DNSRagnhild GoetzVEN– (DNS h3)

Round One (29 July 1952 — 10:00)

Fastest eight advanced to the final.

Heat One

16Geertje WielemaNED1:13.8QOR
21Jean StewartNZL1:16.0Q
37Margaret McDowallGBR1:17.5Q
48Barbara StarkUSA1:17.9Q
55Gerda OlsenDEN1:20.1
64Anneli HaaranenFIN1:21.7
DNS2Judit TemesHUN
DNS3Dolly NazirIND

Heat Two

16Ria van der HorstNED1:17.0Q
24Gertrud HerrbruckGER1:17.8Q
32Mary FreemanUSA1:18.0
41Edith de OliveiraBRA1:20.0
57Lenora FisherCAN1:22.9
63Irena MilnikielPOL1:25.5
78Doris GontersweilerSUI1:26.5
DNS5Ilona NovákHUN

Heat Three

14Joan HarrisonRSA1:14.7Q
28Joke de KorteNED1:15.8Q
35Pauline MusgraveGBR1:19.6
43Magdolna HunyadfyHUN1:19.6
52Coralie O'ConnorUSA1:19.7
67Margareta WestesonSWE1:22.7
76Erna HerbersGER1:23.1
DNS1Ragnhild GoetzVEN

Final (31 July 1952 — 17:00)

1Joan HarrisonRSA1:14.3
2Geertje WielemaNED1:14.5
3Jean StewartNZL1:15.8
4Joke de KorteNED1:15.8
5Barbara StarkUSA1:16.2
6Gertrud HerrbruckGER1:18.0
7Margaret McDowallGBR1:18.4
ACRia van der HorstNEDDQ