Kristin Otto’s performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympics was one for the record books. The East German swimmer became the first female athlete to win six gold medals in one Olympic Games, just three years after suffering a potentially career-ending injury.
She dominated women’s swimming in Seoul by topping the individual events 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, and 100m backstroke, setting world records in all four events, and was also part of the East German teams that won the gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay. Her list of Olympic achievements could have been longer if East Germany hadn’t joined the Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. But she made her presence felt in the world championships, winning seven gold medals and two silvers in the 1982 and 1986 editions.
Not bad for a swimmer who was once advised to give up the sport after cracking a vertebrae in 1984. Determined to come back, Otto completed a tough rehabilitation process and was back in the pool by the 1986 World Championships, where she won four gold medals as a prelude to her ’88 gold rush.
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