Laura Ranwell - 1960 Olympic record breaker

The Springbok swim team at the 1960 Olympics had a surprise result. Laura Ranwell, who had been beaten at the Olympic trials in South Africa by Rhodesian Lyn Cooper, set an Olympic record in the heats of the 100m backstroke. In the final  she finished with a time tied for third place in the women's 100m backstroke, although judged to have finished 4th.

Admittedly she swam in the first heat, beating the world and Olympic record time set by Judy Grinham in 1956, but four other swimmers also beat that time in the rest of the heats. Rhodesians Lyn Cooper, who had beaten Laura at the Olympic trials, and Dottie Sutcliffe, also swam in the Olympic 100m backstroke, but both failed to progress to the final. Lyn Cooper again won the South African championships in 1961 and 1962, while Laura's name does not re-appear in the local swimming press after 1960.

The silver medallist in that race was former South African Natalie Steward,, by then swimming for Great Britain.

Laura was born in Johannesburg on December 13, 1941. In 1960 Laura was selected to compete in the Rome Olympic games. Although she was the least well-known of the three swimmers - she was the one who achieved the most at those Olympic Games.

Tich McLachlan finished 6th in the finals of both the 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle.

Aubrey Burer finished 7th in the 100m freestyle final, but did not progress from the heats of the 400m and 1500m freestyle events. 


The results of the women's 100m backstroke final were :

Rank Athlete Age Team   T  
1 Lynn Burke      17 United States USA 1:09.3 OR
2 Natalie Steward 17 Great Britain GBR 1:10.8  
3 Satoko Tanaka 18 Japan JPN 1:11.4  
4 Laura Ranwell 18 South Africa RSA 1:11.4  
5 Rosy Piacentini 22 France FRA 1:11.4  
6 Sylvia Lewis 18 Great Britain GBR 1:11.8  
7 Ria van Velsen 17 Netherlands NED 1:12.1  
8 Nadine Delache 19 France FRA 1:12.4  

Her Olympic times were :

Phase Unit   T
Final     1:11.4
Round One Heat One QU/OR 1:12.0
1960 Olympic South African Swimming team - Tich Mclachlan, manager Alex Bulley, Laura Ranwell and Aubrey Burer.