THE true spirit of the Olympic Games came to Clergate Public School yesterday.
Former Olympic gold medalist Gail Yeo (nee Neall), who won gold when she swam her personal best time in the individual medley at the Munich games of 1972, shared her memories with students.
The children soaked up the experience of wearing her gold medal, seeing her costume, T-shirts and robe that she has cherished since that day.
She told the children how she pushed through the pain to record her best time in the leg she disliked - the breaststroke.
“By that time I just couldn’t feel my arms but I knew I had to just keep pushing and pushing,” she told the students.
Part of the Olympic team that year was Turramurra High schoolmate Shane Gould.
“I think it really was quite unique to have two students from the same high school competing in the Olympics,” Mrs Yeo said.
“We swam in those days with no goggles and many swimmers had no caps and there certainly wasn’t the level of technology which surrounds the games today,” she told the students.
The children took the opportunity to ask questions and were told how Mrs Yeo became a state champion at the age of 11 and put all her energy into her love of swimming over the next few years.
She outlined her rigorous training schedule.
“I would get up at 4.15am and it was a half hour drive to the pool where I would train for two hours,” she said.
“Mum would have my breakfast ready in the car for me and I would be driven to school.”
The two-hour training session was repeated again in the afternoon.
“Mum would be waiting for me after school and off we would go and I did that twice a day every school day and once on Saturday and Sunday.
“I loved it because I was good at it,” she said.
Mrs Yeo was a member of the Australian Olympic team in a competition that changed the games forever.
She said she had finished her swimming commitment when the tragic hostage event unfolded later that night with 11 Israeli athletes killed in an attack on the Olympic village.
“Up until then our security was virtually non existent,” she said.
“We had a card for identification to get in and out of the village but it didn’t even have our photo on it.
Security was even more relaxed she says for the Mexico Olympics in 1968.
“All you needed then was to be wearing an Australian tracksuit top and they would let you through.”
Mrs Yeo’s courageous swim at Munich won her the Helms Award as Australasia’s most outstanding athlete for 1972.
Students at the school were fortunate to have the visit yesterday as Mrs Yeo’s son Neill is a teacher at the school. Before yesterday’s talk the students watched Mrs Yeo’s 1972 race on the big screen.