Exclusive Reel: Outtakes from Brooklyn’s Eleanor Holm After Swimmer’s Ban from Olympic Team (1936)

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In 1936 in New York, Eleanor Holm, a Brooklyn born and raised swimmer and daughter of a New York City Fire Department officer, comments about her removal from that year’s U.S. Olympic team because of alleged inappropriate behavior aboard the ship en route to the Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. Holm, a 100-meter backstroke gold medalist at age 18 at the 1932 Olympic Games, had qualified for the 1936 Olympics and was the favorite to win another gold medal in the 100-meter backstroke. She had set world records in the 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter backstroke and had not lost a race in seven years.

In July 1936, Holm and more than 300 other Olympians departed New York Harbor on the S.S. Manhattan. Before the ship arrived in Germany, Holm was off the team, a decision made by the American Olympic Committee (now the United States Olympic Committee) and its powerful president, Avery Brundage, who claimed Holm was a poor role model for breaking curfew and drinking alcohol, although there was not a ban against U.S. Olympians drinking.

One night on the ship, she was in attendance as an invitee at a sportswriters party on the first-class deck and stayed past curfew. Another night on the ship, she attended another sportswriters party and would admit to drinking Champagne at the event. Other Olympians were seen drinking alcohol on the trip but were not removed from the team. When they learned of Holm’s removal from competition, about 200 fellow team members asked the American Olympic Committee for her reinstatement, but Brundage kept her ban in place and she didn’t complete at the Games.

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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