As Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky take center stage at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha this week, it’s a good time to look back at one of the most remarkable performances in Trials history. The year was 1960 when Jeff Farrell, who happens to be a longtime Semana Nautica board member, qualified for the Rome Olympics just a few days after having an appendectomy.
The legend was born when Farrell came down with acute appendicitis six days before the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. At the time, Farrell was the American record-holder in the 100 and 200 freestyle. The severity of the emergency surgery seemed to automatically dash Farrell’s chances of making the Olympic Team.
But against all odds, Farrell wouldn’t let the setback ruin his Olympic dreams. Six days after the operation, Farrell defied doctors who said it would take six weeks to recover by racing and qualifying for Rome.
In Rome Farrell anchored two American relay teams that won gold and set world records.
His amazing story was chronicled by many major newspapers and has been canonized as one of the great athletic stories in the sport of swimming. Farrell has written a book about the experience, My Olympic Story: Rome 1960, that won the Buck Dawson Author Award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2015. The book is available on Amazon.
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials begin on Monday, June 26 and continue through Sunday, July 3. The Rio Olympic games are scheduled for August 5 through August 21.