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In search of Michelle Smith, Part One - The girl from Barcelona

Paul Kimmage


It’s 25 years since the swimmer went from Olympic also-ran to multiple champion, but today no one will speak her name . . .

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Michelle Smith. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Michelle Smith. Photo: Patrick Bolger

Shayne Gordon

Shayne Gordon

Shayne Gordon and Michelle Smith

Shayne Gordon and Michelle Smith

Shayne Gordon

Shayne Gordon

Gary O'Toole

Gary O'Toole

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Michelle Smith. Photo: Patrick Bolger

It started on the second Tuesday of January in 1999. The death of the novelist Brian Moore had just been announced; four men had gone on trial that morning at the Special Criminal Court for the murder of Det Garda Jerry McCabe; an arctic weather front had enveloped the country for days and was causing havoc on the roads; and at a black-tie function at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin the erasure of the greatest Irish Olympian in history had begun.

It was the first time in four years Michelle Smith de Bruin had not been feted at the Texaco Awards. She sat with her husband, Erik, at a table at the back of the ballroom and looked pensive and withdrawn as the winners were lauded: Sonia O’Sullivan . . . Mark Scanlon . . . Darren Clarke . . . Michael Donnellan . . . Tony McCoy . . . Brian Whelahan . . . Eddie Jordan . . . Derek Ryan . . . Mick Galwey . . . Brian Kerr . . . Kevin Heffernan.


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