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NO. 13

Golden girl

Sharon Wichman became the first Fort Wayne athlete to earn an Olympic gold medal at the 1968 Summer Games.

When Sharon Wichman started competing in the mid-1960s, there was a boys swimming team at Snider High School, but not one for girls. A few years later, Wichman said she was the only female swimmer she knew of at the time.

Quickly Wichman became a role model for other female athletes, as she won a gold medal in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in the 200-meter breast stroke. Her time of 2:44.4 set an Olympic record, and she also won a bronze medal in the 100-meter breast stroke. Besides being the first American woman to win a gold medal in the event, at only age 16, Wichman became the first Fort Wayne athlete to earn an Olympic gold medal.

"For about a year, my world was wonderful," she remembered in 1997. She married David Jones in 1973. "I gave a lot of talks. People were so excited back then that I would tell them, when they asked me to speak, that I could do a Q & A. They'd ask questions for two hours. That keeps you going and excited."

Wichman decided not to defend her gold medal in 1972, saying she wanted to experience the normal life of a teen-ager.

"I didn't realize how goal-orientated I was until I tried to swim afterward," she said. "I had already done the only thing I ever wanted to do in swimming. Just to swim for swimming's sake was not what I wanted to achieve the rest of my life."

Wichman-Jones lives in Churubusco and has two sons. She often speaks to local groups about her athletic career and her 1985 decision to become a born-again Christian.