Nine ahead of their time
Fellow Olympian Aileen Riggin wrote of her friend Sybil Bauer, "every girl was imitating Sybil -- in and out of the water." In her biggest race, though, no one came close to matching Bauer. At the 1924 Summer Games in Paris, the lanky swimmer with the distinctive backstroke outclassed the field in the 100 meters, winning by four seconds. At the time, she was an undergraduate at Northwestern, where there was no women's team, so Bauer trained with men. And she beat them, too. "She broke a men's record at a meet in Bermuda," says Doug Meffley, Northwestern's sports information director for swimming and diving. "It was an unsanctioned race, so it didn't stand. But it happened. She is our version of 'The Express.'" That comparison, unfortunately, is steeped in tragedy. Just as Syracuse football star Ernie Davis died young, so did Bauer, who succumbed to cancer in 1927, when she was 23. At the end, her fiance, future TV icon Ed Sullivan, was at her bedside. And in a final show of respect, six male swimmers stood as pallbearers.