Laura Ranwell

Laura was born in Johannesburg on December 13, 1941. In 1960 Laura was selected to compete in the Rome Olympic games. Although she was the least well-known of the three swimmers - she was the one who achieved the most - setting an Olympic record in her heat and finishing with the same time at the bronze medallist in her main event - the 100m backstroke. The fourth placed swimmer was also credited with the same time!

Seen here with Tich McLachlan and Aubrey Burer, and the ever-present coach/manager Alex Bulley.


The Springbok swim team at the 1960 Olympics had a surprise result. Laura Ranwell, who had been beaten at the Olympic trials in South Africa by Rhodesian Lyn Cooper. In Rome however, she not only finished with a time tied for third place in the women's 100m backstroke, although judged 4th, she also set a new Olympic record in her heat for that race.

Admittedly she swam in the first heat, beating the world and Olympic record time set by Judy Grinham in 1956, but four other swimmers also beat that time in the rest of the heats. Rhodesians Lyn Cooper, who had beaten Laura at the Olympic trials, and Dottie Sutcliffe, also swam in the Olympic 100m backstroke, but both failed to progress to the final. Lyn Cooper again won the South African championships in 1961 and 1962, while Laura's name does not re-appear in the local press after 1960.

The silver medallist in that race was fellow South African Natalie Steward, by then swimming for Great Britian.

Click here to the results of that event.

Tich McLachlan finished 6th in the finals of both the 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle. Click here to see his results.

Aubrey Burer finished 7th in the 100m freestyle final, but did not progress from the heats of the 400m and 1500m freestyle events. His results are here.

The beautiful Stadio Olimpico del Nuoto indoor aquatics centre at the Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, during the 13th FINA World Aquatics Championships in Rome 2009. Inaugurated in 1959, designed by architects Enrico Del Debbio and Aniballe Vitellozzi to host the swimming, diving, water polo, and swimming portion of the modern pentathlon events for the 1960 Summer Olympics, refurbished to host the European Aquatics Championships in 1983, reconfigured and expanded for the 1994 World Aquatics Championships, and then used again as the Roma 09 warmup pool

The results of the women's 100m backstroke final were :

Rank Athlete Age Team   T  
1 Lynn Burke 17 United States USA 1:09.3 OR
2 Natalie Steward 17 Great Britain GBR 1:10.8  
3 Satoko Tanaka 18 Japan JPN 1:11.4  
4 Laura Ranwell 18 South Africa RSA 1:11.4  
5 Rosy Piacentini 22 France FRA 1:11.4  
6 Sylvia Lewis 18 Great Britain GBR 1:11.8  
7 Ria van Velsen 17 Netherlands NED 1:12.1  
8 Nadine Delache 19 France FRA 1:12.4  

Her Olympic times were :

Games Age Phase Unit Rank   T
1960 Summer 18 Final   4   1:11.4
1960 Summer 18 Round One Heat One 1 QU/OR 1:12.0