America's teenage triple Olympic swimming gold medallist Debbie Meyer

History dictates that the biggest events we should remember from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico are Bob Beamon's long jump record and the Black Power Salute but the achievements of a 16-year-old from America in the swimming pool should not be forgotten either.

Debbie Meyer was still in high school when she qualified for the US Olympic team to swim in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events.

And she discovered that she had to grow up quickly in the two months she spent away from home while at the Games.

There were no parents around to tell her what to eat and when, or when to go to bed and while that would sound to most teenagers like a licence to party, Meyer remained focused on winning Olympic gold.

It all nearly went wrong when she was hit with a bout of diarrhoea on the morning before the 800m heats and 200m final.

Meyer was the world record-holder in the 800m and qualified for the final in second before going on to win the 200m despite losing around five pounds in weight.

She added 800m and 400m golds to her collection to become the first female swimmer to win three individual gold medals at one Games; she also set new Olympic records in each event.

Meyer looked set for a hugely successful Olympic career, but shocked the swimming world by retiring just months before the 1972 Olympics when she realised that she wasn't enjoying the sport anymore.

In all, she set 15 world records across the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m distances, between 1967-70, but many felt her best days were yet to come.

Meyer was undoubtedly the star of the pool in 1968, but who will emerge as the best female swimmer in Beijing?

Peter Scrivener is a BBC Sport Journalist. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.


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