Shirley Babashoff was the most successful female U.S. Olympian prior to the 1990s, with a total of eight Olympic medals. Although she never won an individual Olympic title, she is recognized as one of the greatest freestyle swimmers of all time. Babashoff set six world records in individual events and shared in an additional five in relays. She also set thirty-seven U.S. records (seventeen individual and twenty relay), and at one time held the U.S. freestyle record at every distance from 100-meter to 800-meter.
Apart from her record-breaking ability, Shirley Babashoff had a fine competitive record in major championships, winning—including relays—twenty-seven AAU titles in addition to taking the 200-meter and 400-meter individual gold medals at the 1975 World Championships. Her greatest performance ever came at the 1976 Olympic Trials, where she won every freestyle event and the 400-meter individual medley. She set three U.S. records in the heats and three more in the finals, and broke the world record in the 800-meter freestyle. This ranks among the greatest swimming feats of all time.
Babashoff was infamously vilified by many in the media in 1976 because she complained that the East German swim- mers who had defeated her, notably Kornelia Ender, were obviously using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990, documents from the East German secret police, the Stasi, were found that confirmed all of Babashoff’s suspicions.
On April 30, 2005, Shirley Babashoff received the Olympic Order, the highest award of the Olympic Movement, during the Inaugural Olympic Assembly Luncheon. International Olympic Committee members Bob Ctvrtlik, Anita DeFrantz, and Jim Easton presented the award. The IOC established the Olympic Order in 1974 to honor individuals who have illustrated the Olympic ideals through their actions, achieved remarkable merit in the sporting world, or rendered outstanding services to the Olympic cause, either through their own personal achievements or their contributions to the development of sport.