Moscow 1980: Michelle Ford – Swimming

Moscow 1980: Michelle Ford – Swimming
Seven Network
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Several factors add to the occasion of Michelle Ford's impressive gold medal win in the 800m freestyle at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

As with many other athletes, Michelle was put under immense pressure to boycott the Olympics, because of the Australian Government's stance against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Other countries, such as the US, had boycotted the games altogether. More than half of the Australian team did not attend, instead opting for financial incentives put forth by the Australian Government.

In the final, Michelle swam against the all-conquering – and immensely intimidating – East Germans (who were later disbarred for the use of systemic doping). As explained in this segment from the Seven Network, Michelle dictated the terms and tactics of the race.

She began at a modest pace, placing second last at the first 100m. By the 150m mark – and to the surprise of her competitors – she began to increase her rate. At 200m, she'd hit second, and by 250 metres, she had powered through to the front.

Michelle extended her lead to several body lengths, still reserving energy for the last laps.

We can see a noticeable difference in production values in this clip compared with other clips in the collection that profile earlier Olympic events. Rather than a single caller, the race features two commentators – who at times converse with each other.

We can also see a greater variety of images and camera angles – for instance, the submerged camera position that captures the swimmers from below as they turn at the end of the lap. We can see another angle at a front-on (rather than side) position, which zooms out as the swimmers progress the length of the pool. 

Rather than simply filming the scoreboard, the swimmers' names and their lap times are superimposed in text over the imagery.

This Seven Network segment brilliantly captures the momentous occasion in Australian Olympic history, but it also serves as a demonstrative example of filming technology of the time.

Also from the 1980 Olympics: listen to the final moments of Norman May's classic commentary of the 4 × 100 men’s swimming medley which contains his legendary cry of ‘Gold, gold to Australia, gold!’.