Mexico 1968: Michael Wenden – Swimming

Mexico 1968: Michael Wenden – Swimming
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Michael Wenden’s nailbiting win at the 200m freestyle final at Mexico City in 1968 rates among the finest Australian performances at an Olympics.

His rival, the five-time gold medal winner Don Schollander, had not been beaten in 5 years and was the clear favourite for the race.

The footage captures the contrasting swimming styles of the two great swimmers – Schollander, a consummate technician with an efficient stroke rate and flowing technique, against the all-out explosiveness of Wenden, who produced 15 or more strokes per lap than the other competitors.

Wenden later described his style at the 1968 Olympics as 'going hell for leather, getting from one end of the pool to the other as fast and furiously as possible'.

One shortfall of such an approach is the risk of beginning well but then running out of steam in the final lap. In this race however, Wenden powered through, setting a new world record of 155.2 seconds.  

Wenden’s achievements at Mexico City are all the more significant considering he suffered from the high altitude setting – spending two weeks acclimatising with an increased heart rate, breathlessness and insomnia.

The commentary track – including the commentator’s slightly patrician Australian accent – is typical of the time. His commentary begins in a measured and controlled manner and increases in pace and intensity as the race progresses to a gripping finish.

The camerawork includes long shots and mid shots, punctuated with pans and zooms, all of which makes for effective coverage of a brilliant race. Rather than superimposing the results over the screen – as is typical of contemporary news productions – the camera simply focuses on the scoreboard.

The final part of the clip includes the wonderful moment where a delighted Wenden accepts the medal and waves to the crowd.