Catherine Gibson

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Catherine Gibson
Cathie Gibson 1946..jpg
Cathie Gibson in 1946
Personal information
Full name Catherine Gibson Brown
Nationality Scottish
Born (1931-03-21)21 March 1931
Died 25 June 2013(2013-06-25) (aged 82)[1]
Sport
Sport Swimming
Stroke(s) Freestyle, backstroke

Catherine "Cathy" Gibson (married surname Brown) (21 March 1931 – 25 June 2013) was a Scottish swimmer in post-World War II Britain who, during a 16-year career, won three European Championships medals and, as a participant at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, achieved a bronze medal, Britain's sole swimming trophy in the home-based Games. In 2008 she was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.[2]

Champion at an early age[edit]

A native of Motherwell Gibson received exposure to swimming at a young age: her father was employed at the town's swimming pool and her two brothers played water polo. In 1947, at the age of 16, as a member of the British swimming team at the European Championships, she won silver medals in the 400 m freestyle and the 100 m backstroke and a bronze in the 100 m freestyle relay. With the Olympics a year away, she continued an 8-hour daily training regimen, despite the family's low finances, which required her to work full-time as a clerk.

At the start of the Olympics, four months past her seventeenth birthday, Gibson travelled to London without her family who could not afford the cost of the trip. She competed in the 100 m backstroke, 400 m individual medley, 4×100 m freestyle relay and the 400 m freestyle in which she won the bronze medal in a time of 5 minutes 22.5 seconds. Reporting from the Olympics on 9 July 1948, a Guardian reporter wrote that "Miss Gibson, Britain's hope, was at or near the rear and she did not begin to come up until 300 metres had been swum. Then how she went!"[3] Having lost by a tiny measure, she noted, in passing, during an interview conducted in July 2008, near the medal win's 60th anniversary, her persistent feeling that had her father been able to cheer her on at the Wembley Empire Pool, she might have done better.[4] It was Britain's sole medal in swimming at the 1948 Summer Olympics and she was the only British woman to win a bronze. Among the 23 medals Britain won (3 gold, 14 silver and 6 bronze), five were awarded to female athletes, with the other four medals, all of them silver, and all in track and field, bestowed upon Dorothy Tyler-Odam (born 1920), Audrey Williamson (born 1926), Dorothy Manley (born 1927) and Maureen Gardner (born 1928). Gibson was Britain's youngest 1948 medalist — the next-youngest being silver medal winner boxer Johnny Wright (born 1929). The oldest was speed walker Tebbs Lloyd Johnson (born 1900), who won a bronze in 50 kilometres race walk.

After the Olympics[edit]

Gibson persevered with competitive swimming through the 1950s and, in the sixteen years of pursuing the sport, managed to achieve 29 UK records. Retiring after marriage, she became a hotelkeeper, and remained widowed after the death of her second husband in 1995.[4] With publicity surrounding London's 2012 Summer Olympics, Brown (the name she has used since her marriage), along with the small number of athletes in their eighties and nineties remaining from the event held 64 years earlier, continued to evoke nostalgic tributes.[5]

During the London 2012 Olympic Games, Brown was united with the original portrait of herself. The portrait was painted by artist Kristina Macaulay and was originally commissioned by North Lanarkshire City Council in 2006 to commemorate unique talent local to the area. The image of the painting featured as part of one of the largest local open air galleries in the UK.[6]

Catherine Brown alongside portrait by Kristina Macaulay

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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