Sacred Heart’s Mary T. Meagher is considered one of the greatest swimmers of all time. When one watches how she effortlessly seemed to glide through the water, it is easy to see how she earned the graceful nickname Madame Butterfly.
Born in the 60’s, Meagher (married name, Plant) was born to swim, it seems. At the age of fourteen, she set a world record for the butterfly stroke in 1979.
As a promising young talent, it was assumed that she would compete for her country in 1980. But, due to the political issues surrounding placing the Olympics in Russia, President Jimmy Carter made the decision that the United States would not compete in the Olympics, putting a damper on Meagher’s plans.
So, Meagher had to wait four years for her chance to wear her nation’s colors. In the meantime, the swimmer won two national gold medals, a world gold and silver medal, and left her hometown for the University of California. While swimming for the Bears, Meagher won gold at the 1983 NCAA national swimming championships.
Staying in California, Meagher finally got her chance to jump in the pool for her country during the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. Despite Russia’s absence in response to the U.S. four years prior, the Olympics proved to only further show Meagher’s own dominance in the water, winning three gold medals.
After receiving a degree from University of California, the now famed Mary T. Meagher’s Aquatic Center opened here in Louisville in 1987. The following year would prove to be Meagher’s last Olympics, when she suited up for Olympics 1988 in Korea, where she won a silver and bronze medal.
After the ’88 Olympics, Meagher officially retired to pursue other interests, leaving behind the water with twenty-two U.S. championships and two world championships. Honoring her swimming career, she was inducted into the Swimming Halls of Fame in 1993. With those kinds of credentials, it’s hard to think that she wouldn’t be a sports athlete of the Ville.
Image courtesy of ColonelCat
Meagher in action