Click the play button above to listen to Donna de Varona, Cathy Ferguson and Anne Warner Cribbs discuss being a teenager and an elite swimmer competing in the Olympics in 1960 and 1964.

Cathy Ferguson, Anne Warner Cribbs and Donna de Varona


As the 1960 U.S. Olympic Swim Team prepared to travel to the Rome 1960 Olympic Games, the female members of the team gathered to figure out an important aspect of the trip: Who would room with  13-year-old Donna de Varona?

“They drew straws to room with me,” de Varona said with a laugh, noting that Molly Botkin drew the short straw and became like an older sister.

“We were like, ‘That 13-year-old is going to be on our Olympic team?’ ” said Anne Warner Cribbs, who was 15 at the time but seemed like an adult to de Varona. “Donna you were a great teammate even though you were a little kid on the team.”

Four years later, at Tokyo 1964, the 17-year-old de Varona was an elder statesman compared to 16-year-old Cathy Ferguson. de Varona won gold there in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and the 400 individual medley.

Listen to de Varona, Cribbs and Ferguson discuss their Olympic experiences, what it was like to get a new racing swimsuit and more in their StoryCorps conversation.



A Native American from tiny Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Billy Mills surged down the stretch to win the 10,000-meter run at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.
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