A disputed Olympic medal



By Aug. 5, as Frechette began the first portion of the finals in her event–the execution of four figures drawn from synchro-swimming’s repertoire of ballet-like movements–it was apparent that she had succeeded. On the first of the four, only American Babb-Sprague scored higher. Frechette would later describe the second, called an albatross spin, as “the best figure of my life.” At least four of the five judges, sitting in pulpit-like stands around the pool, plainly agreed: they punched scores of 9.2 or better into the small electronic keypads connected to the facility’s scoring computer.


But at the fifth judging position, there was consternation. Brazilian judge Ana Maria da Silveira had also rated Frechette’s figure highly: later, the swimmer’s coach, Julie Sauv*, said that da Silveira had told her that she intended to award a 9.7–but instead struck keys registering an 8.7. Almost instantly, it appears, she tried to activate a device intended to allow her to recall a mistyped score. Swiss judge Marlis Haeberlis, whose position was next to da Silveira’s, recounted: “She tried to correct it, and she couldn’t make that recall thing work. Finally, because she was all excited, she pushed several buttons.” (more…)