Cynthia Woodhead

Cynthia Lee Woodhead (born February 7, 1964), commonly known by her family nickname "Sippy", is an American former competition swimmer, world champion, Olympic medalist, and former world record-holder. She won three gold medals at the 1978 World Championships, when she was only 14 years old, and set seven world records during her career.[1]

Cynthia Woodhead
Woodhead in 1980
Personal information
Full nameCynthia Lee Woodhead
National teamUnited States
Born (1964-02-07) February 7, 1964
Riverside, California
Height5 ft 6 in (168 cm)
Weight119 lb (54 kg)
ClubMission Viejo Nadadores
College teamUniversity of Southern California


Woodhead received gold medals in the 200-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle and medley relay, and two silver medals at the 1978 World Championships in Berlin, when she was only 14 years old.[1]

At the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she received five gold medals. She won the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter freestyle, as well as being part of the winning U.S. teams in the 4×100-meter freestyle and 4×100-meter medley relays.

Woodhead had qualified for six events at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and was regarded to be among the favorites in the four individual distances, as she was ranked world number one in 100-, 200-, 400-, and 800-meter freestyle. Due to the American boycott of the Moscow Olympics however, she did not get the chance to participate. This was a great disappointment for her, and she has said that the boycott may have triggered her later health problems.[2]

In late 1981 and 1982, she suffered from several health problems—mononucleosis, a broken leg, and pneumonia.[1]

Woodhead competed at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, where she received a silver medal in 200-meter freestyle, finishing behind compatriot Mary Wayte.[3]

She broke the long course 50-meter freestyle world record, April 10, 1980, but the record was further improved by Jill Sterkel the same day. She also broke the long course 200-meter freestyle world record, three times, in 1978 and 1979, her last result remained a world record until 1984. She was also a member of the U.S. team that held the 4×100-meter freestyle relay world record from 1978 to 1980.


In 1979, Woodhead was named Swimming World's World Swimmer of the Year and was named USOC Sports Woman of the Year. In 1994, she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.[1]

See also


  1. International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Cynthia "Sippy" Woodhead (USA). Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  2. Sharon Robb: Cynthia "Sippy" WoodheadUSA Swimming – Heroes of the Past (Retrieved September 11, 2008)
  3. 1984 Summer Olympics – Los Angeles, United States – Swimming" Archived August 27, 2008, at the Wayback (Retrieved on September 10, 2008)
Preceded by

Barbara Krause
Women's 200-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

August 22, 1978 – May 24, 1984
Succeeded by

Kristin Otto
Preceded by

Anne Jardin
Women's 50-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

April 10, 1980 – April 10, 1980
Succeeded by

Kelly Asplund
Preceded by
Tracy Caulkins
World Swimmer of the Year
Succeeded by
Petra Schneider
Preceded by
Tracy Caulkins
USOC Sportswoman of the Year
Succeeded by
Beth Heiden
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