| Event type

800 metres Freestyle, Women

Date24 – 25 July 1976
LocationPiscine olympique, Montréal, Québec
Participants19 from 11 countries

In 1974-75 the top distance swimmer in the world was Australian Jenny Turrall, who won the 1975 World Championships in Cali, Colombia, and set the 800 freestyle world record in London in March. She had also set five world records in the 1,500 freestyle, a non-Olympic event. But in 1976, East German Petra Thümer had broken Turrall’s 800 record with 8:40.68 in Berlin in June. Seventeen days later that mark was bettered by American Shirley Babashoff, who had been runner-up to Turrall at the 1975 Worlds. The three were expected to contest the medals in the 800 freestyle in Montréal, but Turrall had shoulder problems coming into the Olympics and was not as good as she had been in 1975.

Thümer qualified fastest followed by surprise American Nicole Kramer. Babashoff won heat three, closely trailed by Turrall. The final was led by Canadian Shannon Smith through the first 300 metres, but Babashoff and Thümer then took over. They were in lanes 4-5, swimming as doubles, with two-beat kicks and bi-lateral breathing, and there was never open water between them. But in the end, the result was the same as it had been five days earlier in the 400 freestyle, Thümer winning gold in world record time (8:37.14), with Babashoff in second, also under the old world mark. The bronze went to the unheralded American Wendy Weinberg. Turrall was never a factor as she struggled home in last place in the final.

1Petra ThümerGDR8:46.58 (1 h2)8:37.14 (1)Gold
2Shirley BabashoffUSA8:47.74 (1 h3)8:37.59 (2)Silver
3Wendy WeinbergUSA8:49.78 (3 h2)8:42.60 (3)Bronze
4Rosemary MilgateAUS8:53.65 (3 h3)8:47.21 (4)
5Nicole KramerUSA8:46.81 (1 h1)8:47.33 (5)
6Shannon SmithCAN8:52.66 (2 h1)8:48.15 (6)
7Regina JägerGDR8:49.19 (2 h2)8:50.40 (7)
8Jenny TurrallAUS8:51.41 (2 h3)8:52.88 (8)
9Wendy QuirkCAN8:53.93 (4 h2)
10Lisa GearyCAN8:56.49 (3 h1)
11Allison CalderNZL8:57.24 (4 h1)
12Carine VerbauwenBEL8:57.31 (5 h1)
13Annelies MaasNED8:57.38 (4 h3)
14Laura BortolottiITA9:00.16 (6 h1)
15Tracey WickhamAUS9:01.93 (5 h3)
16Antonia RealESP9:07.24 (6 h3)
17Eleonora PandiniITA9:12.47 (5 h2)
18María Fernanda PérezCOL9:36.10 (6 h2)
19Diana HatlerPUR9:43.51 (7 h3)
DNSRachaniwan BulakulTHA– (DNS h1)
DNSMaria GuimarãesBRA– (DNS h2)
DNSIrina VlasovaURS– (DNS h3)

Round One (24 July 1976 — 10:00)

Fastest eight advanced to the final.

Heat One

14Nicole KramerUSA8:46.81QOR
25Shannon SmithCAN8:52.66Q
33Lisa GearyCAN8:56.49
46Allison CalderNZL8:57.24
57Carine VerbauwenBEL8:57.31
62Laura BortolottiITA9:00.16
DNS1Rachaniwan BulakulTHA

Heat Two

14Petra ThümerGDR8:46.58QOR
23Regina JägerGDR8:49.19Q
35Wendy WeinbergUSA8:49.78Q
46Wendy QuirkCAN8:53.93
52Eleonora PandiniITA9:12.47
61María Fernanda PérezCOL9:36.10
DNS7Maria GuimarãesBRA

Heat Three

14Shirley BabashoffUSA8:47.74Q
25Jenny TurrallAUS8:51.41Q
33Rosemary MilgateAUS8:53.65Q
42Annelies MaasNED8:57.38
56Tracey WickhamAUS9:01.93
61Antonia RealESP9:07.24
78Diana HatlerPUR9:43.51
DNS7Irina VlasovaURS

Final (25 July 1976 — 19:00)

14Petra ThümerGDR8:37.14WR
23Shirley BabashoffUSA8:37.59
32Wendy WeinbergUSA8:42.60
48Rosemary MilgateAUS8:47.21
55Nicole KramerUSA8:47.33
61Shannon SmithCAN8:48.15
76Regina JägerGDR8:50.40
87Jenny TurrallAUS8:52.88