Gibson in 1946
|Full name||Catherine Gibson Brown|
|National team||Great Britain|
21 March 1931|
|Died||25 June 2013
Catherine Gibson (21 March 1931 – 25 June 2013), later known by her married name Catherine Brown, was a Scottish swimmer. During a 16-year career she won three European Championships medals and a bronze medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics, Britain's sole swimming trophy in the home-based Games. In 2008, she was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame.
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!" 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. 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
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. 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.
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.
- Tributes to Steelend's Olympic swimmer. dunfermlinepress.com (9 July 2013)
- listed as Catherine Brown (nee Gibson). Scottish Sports Hall of Fame
- "McLANE DEFEATS MARSHALL Three Victories for United States Swimmers" (The Guardian, 9 August 1948, page 2)
- "It was the youth of the world getting together: Cathy Brown, 77, Bronze medal, 400m freestyle swimming". The Guardian (9 July 2008)
- Cathie Gibson. sports-reference.com
- Katwala, Sunder (23 January 2012) "Forgotten Olympic heroes of 1948 should be honoured". britishfuture.org
- Portrait of Catherine Gibson in panel 2 at 6274 public art website spotlighting the Motherwell Underpass Public and Community Art. publicart.co.uk
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