Đurđa “Đurđica” Bjedov, the only Yugoslav Olympic champion in swimming, won her prized gold medal at the Olympic Games in Mexico City on this day in 1968.
Exactly 50 years ago today, on October 19, 1968, Đurđica Bjedov won the Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter breaststroke in Mexico City, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on October 19, 2018.
It was the greatest sensation in the swimming competition at the Games that year, and undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements of Croatian sport in history.
Đurđica first swam at the Olympic Games in Mexico City in the qualifications where she recorded a time of 1.17.7 minutes, which was the second-best time behind Uruguayan Ana Maria Norbis who swam 1.17.4. In the semifinal group, Đurđica took second place with a time of 1:17.1 behind American swimmer Sharon Wichman – but in the second semifinal group, three swimmers had a time under 1.17 minutes, including Norbis, American Catie Ball and Uta Frommater from West Germany.
On October 19th, however, Đurđica was the one to shine in the pool, and with a time of 1:15.8, she created a new Olympic record and took the gold, in front of Galina Prozumenschika and third-placed American swimmer Sharon Wichman.
The Split swimmer was not aware of the greatness she had just achieved.
Three days later, on October 22nd, Đurđica was up for another challenge and passed through the qualifiers for the 200-meter breaststroke to advance to the final. One day after that, she had reason to celebrate again. Đurđica had found her place on the Olympic podium for the second time, this time immediately behind American swimmer Sharon Wichman, and in front of Russian swimmer Galina Prozumenschikova to take the silver with a time of 2.46.4.
They were days of pride and glory, and Split erupted into celebration as Đurđica brought home two Olympic swimming jewels – an incredible feat.
The reception on the Split Riva was fantastic. Thousands of people in the ‘sports capital of the world’ came to share the excitement with Đurđica; to express the emotions that only the City of Split can share.
That same year, Đurđica was awarded the City of Split award, and she was declared the best athlete in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Dalmatia in the election of several editorial offices and federations. In her swimming career, Đurđica was a representative of Yugoslavia 46 times. She participated in the European Championships in 1966 in Utrecht and in 1970 in Barcelona. She was a champion of Yugoslavia 35 times and held the state record 19 times.
In 1987, Đurđica was admitted to the Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida, and since 2007, she has been a member of the Split Sports Hall of Fame. In 2003, she was awarded the medal of the City of Split, in 2009, she was given the trophy of the Split Sports Federation of Fabjan Kaliterna, in 2013 she was honored with the National Sports Award Franjo Bučar, and to top it all off, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
Đurđica returned to Split, her home, in 2011 with the desire to help swimmers with her knowledge and experience.