Michelle Ford-Eriksson (Ford)

Athlete Biography

1962 -

Michelle Ford achieved some significant distinctions at the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980. She was the only Australian to win an individual gold medal at those Games. She was the only non-Soviet bloc swimmer to do so. She was in fact one of only two swimmers (with the Russian Lina Kachushite, in the 200 metres breaststroke) to prevent a clean sweep by the East German women, then exploring new - and highly suspect - frontiers of sport engineering. The East German women, who had also dominated the swimming at the 1976 Games, finished in Moscow with 11 out of 13 gold medals. Ford had the satisfaction of beating the trend by winning the 800 metres freestyle final - taking the lead after 250 metres and pulling away to defeat East Germany’s Ines Diers (who finished with eight medals). Ford also won bronze in the 200 metres butterfly, behind two East Germans, and finished fourth in the 400 metres freestyle, behind three East Germans.

“Those women were huge, had extra body hair and deep voices,” Ford said much later. “You just knew they were on drugs ....” In the context of revelations, long after the Games, of systematic drug cheating by the East Germans, it is fair to assume that Ford deserved three gold medals in Moscow. Her great rival for much of her career was fellow-Australian Tracey Wickham. Both competed in the 1976 Montreal Games, aged 14, and had some magnificent battles in the years that followed over 400 and 800 metres. Wickham chose not to compete in the boycott-affected Moscow Games.

Harry Gordon, AOC Historian