christchurch 1974: steve badger (australia)

openquote.gifYou remember certain things about a meet and for me it was knowing at 150m in the 200m freestyle final that you’re going to win the race – that’s not a bad feeling. There were about 6 guys who’d all swam pretty well at the World Championships about 5 months beforehand and one of them, Bruce Robertson, was the bronze medallist from the 72 Olympics in the 200m freestyle.

I thought I would win it, many people didn’t, but of those 6 who’d swum at the worlds when I’d come 4th, I’d beaten all the others so I had some form going into the meet. But we were all very close and it was just who was going to do it on the day, so it was a fairly tactical race. We all sort of stood around looking at each other in the first lap and at 50m I just said “Well stuff this I’m off!” and at 150m I knew that they’d given me too much lead and they weren’t going to catch me. I’d swum faster at the world championships though – sometimes that happens in a race; finals do funny things to you.

I won a bronze in the 400m free later in the week but I had made a conscious decision before the meet that I was going to aim for the 200m. I was also selected to do the 1500m but I never prepared for it. It was never part of my training schedule and because it was my last race I just went for it and gave it the best shot I had with the preparation I had done. I wasn’t expecting to go any great guns so was pretty happy to pick up another third.

There was a 800m world record in the 1500m from Stephen Holland but of course I didn’t see it because I was 25m behind at the time and only saw a pair of feet splashing. A New Zealand guy called Mark Treffers also swam very well in the 1500m and won the 400IM as well.

After my experience in Christchurch, I’m never quite so happy as when I hear Hackett is going to drop the 200m. I had the same programme as Hackett does, as Kowalski tried to do in Atlanta, and it’s too hard. I had the 200 as my first event and to maintain your peak and have the longest race as your last race is just too hard to do in my opinion and it’s harder now than when I was swimming as its just so much more competitive.

There were some great swimmers in our team at the meet, Holland, Michael Wenden, Jenny Turrall and Sally Lockyer, who were a great Australian distance swimming duo, Neil Rogers who made two Olympic finals in the 100m fly – it was a very strong team. But you really are focussed so much on your own swimming and because I swam the first day, most of the other days and the last day, there was not much spectating being done and I didn’t get to see a lot of the races as you’re preparing for your events or getting in and warming up or whatever.

I do remember the 200m backstroke when Australia got a 1-2-3 with Brad Cooper, who I trained with, winning the gold. Mark Tonelli who was a good friend of mine got the silver and Robert Williams another friend of mine got third. I also remember David Wilkie in the breaststroke – I always got on well with David, he was crazy but he was a special guy.

Michael Wenden was my room mate and he won his 9th Commonwealth Gold medal at that meet. I remember it really well as it was his last swim in the 100m free, which he won, and on the victory lap at the end he had his costume inside his tracksuit and he’s taken it out and thrown it into the stands because he’d announced his retirement. And some young Kiwi kid caught it and Michael yelled out “Can he swim?” and his dad yells back “No, but he starts tomorrow!”.

The party after the end of the Games was the best after party I’ve ever been to. The Olympics in Montreal was very good but the ’74 Commonwealth Games, in Christchurch Town Hall probably still ranks as number 1 and just kicked on back in the village. It was just great.closequote.gif