In her extraordinary swimming career, Shirley Babashoff set thirty-nine national records and eleven world records. Prior to the 1990s, she was the most successful U.S. female Olympian and, in her prime, was widely considered to be the greatest female swimmer in the world.
Heading into the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Babashoff was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and followed closely by the media. Hopes were high that she would become “the female Mark Spitz.”
All of that changed once Babashoff questioned the shocking masculinity of the swimmers on the East German women’s team. Once celebrated as America’s golden girl, Babashoff was accused of poor sportsmanship and vilified by the press with a new nickname: “Surly Shirley.”
Making Waves displays the remarkable strength and resilience that made Babashoff such a dynamic champion. From her difficult childhood and beginnings as a determined young athlete growing up in Southern California in the 1960s, through her triumphs as the greatest female amateur swimmer in the world, Babashoff tells her story in the same unflinching manner that made her both the most dominant female swimmer of her time and one of the most controversial athletes in Olympic history.
In light of the recent Russian doping scandal, Babashoff, a former Olympic medal winning swimmer, reveals in her timely memoir how the East German government turned their female swimmers into elite athletes with an experimental drug program. Her narrative deftly recounts her humble California beginnings, with her strict parents pushing her to triumph in a series of amateur meets and Olympic trials. Babashoff, assisted by veteran writer Epting, covers some painful terrain about her father molesting her for years, a crime he was eventually arrested for after similarly assaulting several neighborhood girls. Once the acclaimed swimmer gets on the big Olympic stage in 1972 and 1976, she witnesses the horror of the Munich massacre, the glory of gold medal winner Mark Spitz, and the evolution of the muscular East German female swimmers, who were groomed in the lab to smash world records. "It's like swimming against aliens," Babashoff tells skeptical reporters, who doubt that the women's new Charles Atlas bodies are the result of doping. Unforgettable and brave, Babashoff's whistle-blowing memoir poses a host of disturbing questions about Olympic regulations, performance-enhancing drugs, anti-doping agencies, media arrogance, winning cleanly, and life after competition.