Olympic Channel Publishes Mini Documentary on the Wave That Cost Carolyn Wood an Olympic Medal in 1960

Photo Courtesy: Olympic Channel

The Olympic Channel published a mini documentary to their YouTube channel on the women’s 100m butterfly final from the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The episode is a part of their new series “On the Line,” which tells the inside stories on the unknown, overlooked, and unforgettable moments from swimming, alpine skiing, and athletics’ iconic 100m final.

This week’s story focused on the women’s 100m butterfly final at the 1960 Olympic Games, and the unexpected wave that caused pre-race favorite Carolyn Wood to choke on water and become unable to finish the race, resulting in a “do not finish.”

(Turn on closed captioning to see what Kristina Larsson is saying)

The documentary features phone interviews with Wood, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 back Lynn Burke, and Kristina Larsson, who finished seventh in that 100 fly final.

According to Burke, the coaches at the Games were complaining about the levels of the water in the pools, saying they were too low.

“So if you’re leading a race and you come out of the turn, you’d get, like, a wave come right at you. The coaches were all discussing it with the officials to please fill up the pools higher, higher, higher. I guess to no avail. So when we set world records, it was amazing because it was considered a slow pool,” Burke said in the video.

Ironically, that “slow pool” played host to the infamous 2009 World Championships, widely known as the fastest swim meet of all-time.

Wood, who was 14 at the Games, expected she would take home the gold medal in the 100 fly, saying she had beaten fellow American Carolyn Schuler several times the previous year, and won at the Olympic Trials. Her strategy in the final was to come out of the turn and take two or three strokes without a breath, and then take a breath after she assumed she passed the wave.

Ultimately, the winner was the 17-year-old American Schuler, who broke the Olympic Record with a 1:09.5, which was slower than Wood’s 1:09.4 she swam at the 1960 Olympic Trials.


  • Wood found redemption by swimming on the gold medal winning relay team in the 4×100 free relay.
  • Wood attended the University of Oregon and became an English teacher years after the 1960 Olympics.
  • Goggles were used for the first time at the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976.
  • Schuler was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1989.

The Olympic Channel also published a documentary for On the Line about the famous 4×100 free relay from the 2008 Olympics, with special focus on France’s perspective. That documentary featured phone interviews with Fabien GilotFred Bousquet and Alain Bernard.