Olympic Spotlight: Michelle Ford

| No Comments

The streak was over.  USC had won a gold medal in every Olympics since 1912, but the Team USA boycott of Moscow 1980 due to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan meant no Trojans stood atop the medal podium.

None at the time at least...

At the time, Michelle Ford, 18, was embroiled in a controversy down under.  The Australian swimmer was offered money by her own country to stay home, but she had no intentions of sitting this one out.

Ford quickly pocketed a bronze in the 200m butterfly, but more importantly, she learned the strategy of her East German rivals.  They were swimming in pairs sending out a fast pacesetter to tire out the field only to have the country's best hope bring it home at the end.

The 800m freestyle world record holder also suspected that many of her opponents had a chemical advantage. 

Michelle_Ford_gold.jpg"The doping issues were at large, but they were not testing like they are today," Ford said.  "I had to put that out of my mind and convince myself that I could win anyway."

She did win.  And in doing so, she became the only non-Soviet bloc female swimmer to take home gold from Moscow.

Ford also overcame the mental anguish of death threats from her own countrymen.  Originally branded a "traitor" to the cause, she believes that her gold helped "reunite" Australia, which was split on the decision to boycott.

"On top of winning the gold medal for me, it was a relief to win one for Australia," said Ford about winning the country's first gold of the 1980 Olympics.

If winning gold was unlikely, Ford's journey to becoming a Trojan was even more fortuitous.  She trained in Nashville before the Moscow games and then signed to go to UCLA until the head coach left the team upon her arrival in Los Angeles.

Ford-2008.JPGReleased from her agreement, Ford narrowed her choices down to Stanford and USC.  With the help of legendary Australian and Trojan swimmer Murray Rose, a six-time Olympic medalist, USC landed its big fish.

In doing so, the streak survived.  USC athletics boasts a current, former or future Trojan gold medalist in every Olympics for a century (1912-2012).

"I'm so proud to have kept the golden torch through the ages alive," said Michelle Ford-Eriksson (pictured in 2008), who lives in Switzerland now. "It is a marvelous heritage.  To be a part of that history, it just makes me so proud."

Click here for USC's London 2012 website.

Leave a comment