Tracy Caulkins

Tracy Anne Stockwell, OAM, (born January 11, 1963), née Tracy Anne Caulkins, is an American former competition swimmer, three-time Olympic gold medalist, five-time world champion, and former world record-holder in three events.

Tracy Caulkins
Tracy Caulkins in 1981
Personal information
Birth nameTracy Anne Caulkins
National teamUnited States
Born (1963-01-11) January 11, 1963
Winona, Minnesota
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Weight132 lb (60 kg)
StrokesBackstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle, individual medley
ClubNashville Aquatic Club
College teamUniversity of Florida

Caulkins was noted for her versatility and ability in all four major competitive swimming strokes: the butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke and freestyle. Caulkins won forty-eight national championships and set American records in all four strokes over a range of distances as well as in the individual medley (IM) events, which combine all four strokes over the course of a single race. Her versatility brought Caulkins many titles and awards, and as a result she is considered one of the greatest swimmers of all time. By the time she retired from competitive swimming in 1984, Caulkins had set five world records and sixty-three American records (more than any other American swimmer, male or female).[1]

Early years

Caulkins was born in Winona, Minnesota in 1963.[2] She swam for the Westside Victory Swim club and later the Nashville Aquatic Club (NAC) in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was trained by future University of Texas and U.S. Olympic coach Paul Bergen.[3] For her high school education, she attended the all-girls Harpeth Hall School in Nashville.[4] Caulkins' older sister Amy was also a competition swimmer and water polo player.[3]

Olympic desire

As a 9-year-old, Caulkins had been training as a swimmer for a little over a year when she watched the 1972 Munich Olympics on television, and decided that she wanted to swim in the Olympics and win a gold medal.[5] In a 1997 interview, Caulkins credited her Olympic dream as her inspiration and motivation.[5]

Thirteen-year-old Caulkins competed in her first U.S. national swimming championships in 1976. A year later, she returned to the 1977 U.S. Short-Course Championships to set U.S. records in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley events.[6] She set a third U.S. record while finishing second behind Canadian swimmer Robin Corsiglia in the 100-yard breaststroke.[6]

At the age of 15, Caulkins won five gold medals and a silver medal at the 1978 World Championships in West Berlin.[7] She won the 200-meter individual medley, the 400-meter individual medley, and the 200-meter butterfly, and was a member of the winning U.S. teams in the 4×100-meter medley relay, and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.[7] In the process, she set four world records and one American record.[7] Largely as a result of her performance in Berlin, Caulkins won the 1978 James E. Sullivan Award, given by the Amateur Athletic Union in recognition of the most outstanding American amateur athlete of the year.[8][9] At 15 years old, she was the youngest-ever recipient of the Sullivan Award.[10]

She followed her World Championship success with a series of dominating finishes in U.S. competition. At the 1979 U.S. Short-Course Championships in East Los Angeles, California, she set five U.S. records in the 100-yard breaststroke, 500-yard freestyle, the 400-yard individual medley, the 200-yard individual medley, and the 100-yard freestyle on the first leg of the 400-yard relay.[11] She also helped her club team, Nashville Aquatic, win the 400-yard medley relay and place second in the 800-yard freestyle relay.[11] Despite setting the new records, however, she was not at her physical best; she was suffering from the after-effects of a viral infection.[11] Three months later, she won four gold medals and two silvers at the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico.[12]

Following her gold-medal performance at the 1978 World Championship, Caulkins was expected to win multiple medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, USSR,[4][13] and qualified to compete in five individual events at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and likely would have been selected as a member of one of the relay teams as well.[14] However, the U.S. Olympic team boycotted the 1980 Games at the behest of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, following the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Caulkins' dream of Olympic gold was deferred by war and politics, so she quietly looked ahead to 1984.[4][15]

As an 18-year-old high school senior, she set four American short-course records at the 1981 U.S. Short-Course Championships in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[16] In each of the four events, she bettered her own previously-set American record: the 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard backstroke, the 200-yard individual medley, and the 400-yard individual medley.[16]

Over the next three years, Caulkins maintained her training regimen while attending the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where she swam for coach Randy Reese's Florida Gators swimming and diving team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition from 1982 to 1984.[18] Caulkins followed her older sister Amy to the University of Florida, where Amy was already an established member of the Florida Gators swim team.[3][18] With Caulkins leading the way as a freshman, the Gators won the NCAA team championship in 1982; the Gators finished second in 1983 and third in 1984.[18] Individually, in three years as a Gator swimmer, she won sixteen NCAA championships and twelve Southeastern Conference (SEC) individual titles, and received twenty-one All-American honors.[18] She was the SEC's Female Swimmer of the Year in 1983 and 1984, and was recognized as the SEC's Female Athlete of the Year in 1984.[18] She was the recipient of the Honda Sports Award for Swimming and Diving for three consecutive years, recognizing her as the outstanding college female swimmer of the year.[19]

At the 1982 U.S. Short-Course Championships in Gainesville, the 19-year-old again won national championships in the 200-yard backstroke, 400-yard individual medley, the 200-yard individual medley, and the 100-yard breaststroke.[20] With thirty-nine national championships to date, Caulkins surpassed the legendary Johnny Weissmuller's record total of thirty-six.[20]

Even as she continued to win against fellow Americans in 1982 and 1983, however, she was slumping and falling behind her international competition.[17] She set no new international records, and was increasingly frustrated with her own performances.[17][21] At the 1982 World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador, she finished a distant third in both the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley events against her East German competition, and failed to place in the third event in which she was entered.[17] At the 1983 U.S. Long-Course Championships in Fresno, California, she finished five seconds slower than her own American record in the 400-meter individual medley and finished second behind Mary T. Meagher in the 200-meter butterfly.[21] At the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, held later the same month, she likewise won her two signature events in the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley, but did not approach her own personal bests.[17]

Afterward, Caulkins rededicated herself to coach Randy Reese's rigorous training methods.[17] In an international invitational meet of 26 nations held in Austin, Texas in January 1984, she defeated her East German rivals in both individual medley events.[22] At the NCAA national championships later that spring, she won four individual titles in the 200- and 400-yard individual medleys, 100-yard breaststroke, and 200-yard butterfly, and was a member of the Gators' winning relay teams in the 4×100-yard and 4×200-yard freestyle events.[18] She set new NCAA records in three events, and a new American record in the 200-yard individual medley.[18]

At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California, Caulkins served as the captain of the U.S. women's swim team,[23] and finally realized her childhood dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. On July 29, she won her first gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley, beating Australian Suzie Landells by over nine seconds.[24] On August 3, she won her second gold medal in the 200-meter individual medley with an Olympic record time of 2:12.64, besting fellow American Nancy Hogshead by over two and a half seconds.[25] And later that same day, she won her third gold medal by swimming the breaststroke leg as a member of the winning U.S. team in the 400-meter medley relay, together with teammates Theresa Andrews (backstroke), Mary T. Meagher (butterfly), and Nancy Hogshead (freestyle).[26][27] She also finished fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke, one second behind winner Petra van Staveren.[28]

Caulkins ended her competition swimming career having set five world records and sixty-three American records, and having won forty-eight national championship titles.[23][29]

Life after competition swimming

In the aftermath of the 1984 Olympics, the 21-year-old Caulkins decided to forgo her senior year of NCAA eligibility at the University of Florida to focus on completing her degree requirements, and announced her retirement from competition swimming.[30] She graduated from Florida with her bachelor's degree in broadcasting in 1985,[31] and was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great."[32] Caulkins was inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame in 1983,[33] the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1990,[1] and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.[34]

She married Mark Stockwell, an Olympic Swimming Medalist from Australia and a fellow University of Florida alumnus, and has lived in Australia since shortly after graduating from the University of Florida.[35] They live in Queensland, Australia with their five children.[35]

Caulkins is now an American-Australian dual citizen.[36] In 2008, she was recognized, under her married name, Tracy Anne Stockwell, "For service to sport as an administrator and proponent of sporting opportunities for women" with the Medal of the Order of Australia by the Australian government.[35][37] After receiving the medal, the American transplant described herself as "one proud Australian."[35]

World records

Women's 200-meter butterfly

Time Date Event Location
2:09.87= August 26, 1978 FINA World Championships West Berlin, West Germany

Women's 200-meter individual medley

Time Date Event Location
2:15.09 August 2, 1978 AAU Long-Course National Championships The Woodlands, Texas
2:14.07 August 30, 1978 FINA World Championships West Berlin, West Germany
2:13.69 January 5, 1980 USA Women's International Swimming Austin, Texas[38]

Women's 400-meter individual medley

Time Date Event Location
4:40.83 August 23, 1978 FINA World Championships West Berlin, West Germany

Women's 4×100-meter freestyle relay

Time Date Event Location
3:43.43 August 26, 1978 FINA World Championships West Berlin, West Germany

Note: All record times and locations are sourced to USA Swimming's list of world records.[39]

See also



  1. International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Tracy Caulkins (USA). Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  2., Olympic Sports, Athletes, Tracy Caulkins. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  3. Caroline R. Adams, "A Level-Headed Champion," The Harvard Crimson (April 8, 1981). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  4. E. M. Swift, "Tracy Caulkins: 'I Could Be Over The Hill In 1984'," Sports Illustrated (July 21, 1980). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  5. Julian M. Pleasants, Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, p. 276 (2006).
  6. Jerry Kirshenbaum, "They're Bracing for Berlin," Sports Illustrated (August 29, 1977). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  7. Jerry Kirshenbaum, "Uncle Sam's Girls Play It Again," Sports Illustrated (September 4, 1978). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  8. Associated Press, "Sports News Briefs; Tracy Caulkins, Swimmer, Gets Sullivan Award at 16," The New York Times (February 9, 1979). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  9. AAU Sullivan Memorial Award, Past Winners, Tracy Caulkins. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  10. Frank Litsky, "Tracy Caulkins Rules Swimming World," The New York Times (January 7, 1981). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  11. Joe Jares, "Caulkins Gave 'em Five," Sports Illustrated (April 23, 1979). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  12. Joe Marshall, "Feeling Right at Home in San Juan Archived December 2, 2014, at the Wayback Machine," Sports Illustrated (July 16, 1979). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  13. For a comparison of Caulkins' qualifying times at the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials and the winning times from the 1980 Olympic finals, see Joe Marshall, "All That Glitter Was Not Gold," Sports Illustrated (August 16, 1980). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  14. "Legends of the Pool: Tracy Caulkins, the most underrated swimmer ever," (2010). Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  15. Glenn Miller, "Beyond the pool length with Tracy Caulkins," The Evening Independent, p. 1C (December 8, 1981). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  16. Demmie Stathoplos, "She Pooled Her Talents: The Short Course Championships were a showcase for versatile Tracy Caulkins," Sports Illustrated (April 20, 1981). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  17. Steve Goldstein, "Legend reborn: Caulkins' NCAA performance gives East Germans message," Boca Raton News, p. 4C (March 22, 1984). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  18. Florida Swimming & Diving 2014–15 Media Supplement Archived August 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 82, 83, 87, 91, 92, 93, 95, 97, 99 (2014). Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  19. Collegiate Women Sports Awards, Past Honda Sports Award Winners for Swimming & Diving. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  20. Craig Neff, "Some Old and Some New," Sports Illustrated (April 19, 1982). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  21. Demmie Stathoplos, "A Pool Party With Records," Sports Illustrated (August 15, 1983). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  22. Craig Neff, "America's Women Are Flying High Once More," Sports Illustrated (January 16, 1984). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  23. Maragaret D. Binnicker, "Tracy Caulkins Stockwell," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Tennessee Historical Society, Nashville, Tennessee (2011). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  24. Sports-Reference, Olympics, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Women's 400 metres Individual Medley. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  25. Sports-Reference, Olympics, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Women's 200 metres Individual Medley. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  26. Craig Neff, "Four Finals, Two Records and Five Gold Medals," Sports Illustrated (August 6, 1984). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  27., Athletes, Tracy Caulkins Archived October 17, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 12, 2010.
  28. Sports-Reference, Olympics, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Women's 100 metres Breaststroke. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  29. John Lohn, Historical Dictionary of Competitive Swimming, Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, p. 21 (2010). Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  30. Denne H. Freeman, "Tracy Caulkins announces retirement," The Gettysburg Times, p. 8 (August 6, 1984). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  31. University of Florida Alumni Directory, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2000).
  32. F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  33. Florida Sports Hall of Fame, Inductees, Tracy Caulkins (1988). Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  34. Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Inductees, Caulkins Stockwell, Tracy. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  35. Sam Hovland, "Caulkins still holding down records: Former Florida swimmer held five world, 63 American marks," (March 26, 2012). Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  36. Amy Rosewater, "For Tracy Caulkins, 1984 Games Were Well Worth The Wait," (July 29, 2014). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  37. Australian Government, Honours, Tracy Anne Stockwell. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  38. United Press International, "Miss Caulkins Snaps Second Swim Mark," The New York Times (January 7, 1980). Retrieved November 10, 2014.
  39. USASwimming, Women's Records. Retrieved November 24, 2014.


  • Caraccioli, Jerry, & Tom Caraccioli, Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, New Chapter Press, Washington, D.C. (2009). ISBN 978-0-942257-54-0.
  • Pleasants, Julian M., Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2006). ISBN 0-8130-3054-4.
Preceded by
Ulrike Tauber
Women's 200-meter individual medley
world record-holder (long course)

August 2, 1978 – May 24, 1980
Succeeded by
Petra Schneider
Preceded by
Ulrike Tauber
Women's 400-meter individual medley
world record-holder (long course)

August 23, 1978 – March 30, 1980
Succeeded by
Petra Schneider
Preceded by
Rosemarie Ackermann
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Marita Koch
Preceded by
Ulrike Tauber
Swimming World
World Swimmer of the Year

Succeeded by
Cynthia Woodhead
Preceded by

Tiffany Cohen
Swimming World
American Swimmer of the Year

Succeeded by

Tiffany Cohen
Mary T. Meagher
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