1928 Olympic bronze medal winners - Women's relay

In 1928 five Springbok swimmers travelled to the Olympic Games in Amsterdam, accompanied by coach Rachael Finlayson. From L/R: Kathleen Russell, Zus Engelenberg, Freddie van der Goes, Rhoda Rennie, Marie Bedford.

All the girls except Mary Bedford, were coached by Jimmy Green of Pretoria. Bedford was coached by Rachael Finlayson. Coach Green's swimmers had won all the women's events at the SA Swimming championships in East London in 1927, with Mary Bedford 2nd in the 50 yards freestyle.


The Olympic relay race was held before the individual 100m freestyle and the result accurately foreshadowed what was to happen in that event. Only seven countries competed but qualifying heats were still needed to remove one team from the competition. This provided the opportunity for the American team to break the world record which had stood since 1924.

Bolstered by the introduction of Eleanor Garatti and Martha Norelius to the team for the final, the USA swam off into the distance and took another large chunk off the world record. The British held off the Dutch for silver with South Africa touching ahead of Germany. The Netherlands were later disqualified for a faulty changeover and South Africa promoted to bronze.


Kathleen Russell

Kathleen Russell (17 November 1912 – 26 November 1992) was freestyle swimmer from Durban who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics. She was coached by Racheal Finlayson.

At the1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games she was 15 years old, and a member of the South African relay team which won the bronze medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay event. She also competed in the 400 metre freestyle competition, but was eliminated in the semi-finals.

At the 1934 Empire Games she won the silver medal with the South African team in the 4×100 yards freestyle relay contest.

Zus Engelenberg

Zus Engelenberg was the fifth member of the team. Born in Pretoria on 4th January 1909, she died in Durban on 16 May 1984, aged 75. As The Northern Transvaal province was yet to be established, Zus represented Transvaal at the South African swimming championships. She was also coached by Jimmy Green in Pretoria.

She was eliminated after the first round of the 100 freestyle, finishing third in her heat.

Freddie van der Goes

Frederika "Freddie" Jacoba van der Goes (26 November 1908 – 24 October 1976) was from Pretoria, where was also coached by Jimmy Green in Pretoria.

In 1928 she was a member of the South African relay team which won the bronze medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay event She also competed in the 400 metre freestyle competition and finished fifth.

Rhoda Rennie

Rhoda Lillian Rennie was born in Benoni in 2nd May1909. She died in Johannesburg on 11 March 1963. Her father was Major George Rennie, a Benoni pioneer estate agent and mayor,  and her mother Nellie Johanna (born Vermaak). She showed a talent for swimming at an early age, and represented Transvaal. After the 1928 Olympic Games, Rhoda married Percy Arthur Wrightson. Later in life Rhoda ran a swimming school in Johannesburg.

She competed in the 100 metre freestyle competition and in the 400 metre freestyle event, but was in both eliminated in the first round. She was a member of the South African relay team which won the bronze medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay event.

23 March, 1923

Marie Bedford

Mary "Marie" Esther Bedford was born 27 March 1907, and represented Natal. She was a member of the South African relay team which won the bronze medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay event.

She also competed in the 400 metre freestyle competition, but was eliminated in the first round.

OLYMPISCH STADION, AMSTERDAM


Constructed as the centerpiece of the 1928 Amsterdam Games, Olympisch Stadion was the gold-medal-winning work of Dutch architect Jan Wils (1891–1972), a founding member of the De Stijl movement and greatly influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wils accented the low-slung, redbrick structure with a slender tower that was topped with the first-ever cauldron designed to cradle the Olympic flame. The swimming basin was made of reinforced concrete that was 50m long by 18 m wide with the deepest part near the diving area at 5 m. Stands were erected at both sides with one of them at most accommodating 6000 spectators. There were 20 men's and 16 women's dressing rooms.

A temporary structure, it was demolished following the Olympics in 1929.


Signatures of the Olympic Springbok swimmers at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.