Don McKenzie, 1989 ISHOF Honor Swimmer
Breaststroke success despite not being favorite
Don McKenzie (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1989. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:
For the Record: 1968 Olympic gold (100-meter breast) and one gold medley relay. One world record relay. One NCAA championship (100-yard breast). Five American records (100-meter and 100-yard breast and three relays.)
Swimming is supposed to be predictable, perhaps more predictable than any other sport but not so in the breaststroke at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. All four gold medal breaststroke winners were won by somebody other than the favorite. Hence, Sharon Wichman, USA and Djurdjica Bjedov, Yugoslavia won the womens' races, and Felipe Munoz, Mexico and Don McKenzie, USA won the men.
Of all these upsetters McKenzie was the least expected. McKenzie of Indiana had never won a national title and certainly never beaten the three USSR finalists including Nikolai Pankin, the world record holder. In fact, until the preliminaries, he had not beaten Ian O'Brian, Australia, Jose Fioli, Brazil, Vladimir Kosinsky, USSR or Dave Perkowski, USA, his teammate at Indiana. Only in the preliminaries had he shown he had a chance when he and Pankin tied for the second qualifier.
Filled with the self confidence of an Olympic winner in the 100 meter breaststroke, McKenzie went on to a second gold in the world record setting medley relay. The next year he repeated two triumphs for Indiana at the NCAA Championships. McKenzie certainly showed that Golden Dreams can be for real.
Courtesy of The Henning Library at the International Swimming Hall of Fame.