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3 Connecticut Athletes Captured 5 Medals in 1948 London Olympic Games

Two swimmers and a pentathlete brought home 3 golds and 2 silvers from the 'Austerity Games' of 1948. One of them was a highly decorated war hero who is still alive at 93!

London is the only city in the world to have hosted the modern Olympic games three times: 1908, 1948, and 2012. The 1948 games are sometimes referred to as the "Austerity Games," as they were held barely three years following the devastation wrought by World War II.

Neither the Germans nor the Japanese — the aggressors whose actions began the second world war — were invited. The Russians were invited; however, still recovering from the Nazi invasion of their country, they chose to send no athletes.

The games had not been held since 1936 in Hitler's Germany, and so they marked a kind of return to normalcy. Rubble from the German blitz on London was everywhere for the athletes to see in 1948. More than 4,100 athletes from 59 countries attended, including 438 women. It was the largest contingent of athletes ever to participate in the Olympic Games up until that time.

Unlike the lush accommodations accorded today's elite athletes, the 1948 Olympians were asked to bring their own food with them! Most were housed in former RAF military barracks from the war. Three of the 300 athletes representing the USA had Connecticut connections, and all of them won at least one medal.

Col. George Bissland Moore from Bridgeport, CT, won the silver medal in the pentathlon in the 1948 London Olympics; however, that silver medal paled in comparison to four other medals that Colonel Moore had earned in World War II: two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart, and the Legion of Merit. Moore, a paratrooper and an artillery officer, participated in both the North African Campaign and in the invasion of Italy.

Having been in battle multiple times and having been wounded, it is not likely that the pressure of Olympic competition would have bothered him at all. Still alive at 93, Colonel Moore lives in the Watermark Retirement Community in Bridgeport.

The pentathlon — consisting of running, swimming, shooting, horse jumping, and fencing — debuted 100 years ago in the 1912 Olympics, when future legendary American General George S. Patton finished fourth in the competition. In fact, military personnel from several countries — particularly from Sweden — dominated the pentathlon through the 1950s. Swedish officers completely dominated the event in the first three pentathlons by sweeping the gold, silver, and bronze medals! Colonel Moore, who later taught at West Point, is the last American to get a medal of any type in the Olympic pentathlon.

Swimming events have been part of Olympic competition since the modern renewal of the games in 1896; however, women only began competing in Olympic swimming in 1912. Whereas men competed in six swimming events, women competed in five events — the 100 backstroke, the 100 freestyle, the 200 breaststroke, the 400 freestyle, and the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. By contrast, Olympic swimmers in 2012 can compete in 17 events, including three relays.

The 1948 Olympics had the exact same events for women as the 1912 games, and Marie Corridon of Norwalk, CT, won a gold medal as part of the winning American 4 x 100 freestyle relay team. Born on Feb. 5, 1930, Corridon died in Norwalk on May 26, 2010. One of her gold medal teammates, Ann Curtis of California, just died about a month ago on June 26, 2012, at the age of 86.

According to her obituary, Marie Corridon Mortell learned to swim at the Longshore Club in Westport and immediately distinguished herself. She went on to win two AAU titles in 1948. The mother of seven children, five of whom were collegiate swimmers themselves, Marie later worked for Longtime IOC President Avery Brundage as an assistant for many years. Her relay team, anchored by Ann Curtis, ran down the Danish, British, and Dutch teams in the last 15 meters in dramatic fashion to set an Olympic record in the event.

Jimmy McClane of Yale University won 2 gold and 1 silver medal at the London games of 1948. McClane also went on to win another gold medal in the 1952 Helsinki games. A middle distance specialist, McClane was part of the Yale University swimming juggernaut under legendary Coach Robert Kiphuth. Kiphuth, coach at Yale from 1917 - 1959, won an unbelievable 528 out of 540 dual meets during that time and coached several Olympic teams.McClane was one of his many star swimmers.

Under Kiphuth's tutelage, McClane won the 1,500 meter freestyle and was a member of the 4 x 200 freestyle relay, which set a world record. He also took a silver in the 400 meter freestyle. McClane's Yale team did not lose a single dual meet during his collegiate career; in fact, Yale did not lose a meet from 1945 - 1961, an amazing win streak of 201 consecutive dual meets! According to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Jimmy McClane was the " greatest tactician" in swimming from 1944-1955.

In his final year of competitive swimming, McClane captained the 1955 American Pan-Am team and won three gold medals in that competition. Like George Moore, Jimmy is still alive and well today in his 82nd year and is undoubtedly proud of being part of a contingent of three elite athletes with strong Connecticut connections, who among them collected 3 gold and 2 silver medals at the "Austerity Games" in London in 1948.


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