Pittsburgh Sports Report
August 2005

Sports History
Pittsburgh's Ace Mermaids
By Anne Madarasz

Today the town of Homestead is best known for metal making, as former home of one of the world's largest and most productive steel mills. But it should also be known for medal winners: between 1928 and 1936 four young women from Homestead represented the United States as members of the Olympic swim team.

Deep in the bowels of the Carnegie Library in Homestead there is a swimming pool. Like the library, the pool offered recreation and respite from the world of work outside its doors.

The Homestead Library Athletic Club, founded by Carnegie Illinois Steel to foster bonds with the workers, provided an avenue of achievement for the children of the community. Under Coach Jack Scarry, "The Maker of Champions," Homestead experienced a golden age of swimming success. Using skills developed during his athletic career, and sharpened by time in the military, Scarry trained the four Olympians, as well as men and women who captured numerous national and world records in swimming, and won state and national titles in water polo. His protégés, many the children of immigrant steel workers, competed against, and defeated, members of affluent athletic clubs from around the country.

The first to represent Homestead at the Olympics were Susan Laird and Josephine McKim who competed in 1928. Laird, Scarry's niece, brought home a gold medal - after placing fourth in the 100m, she won the top prize swimming for the relay team. Laird remained a supporter of the team after the Olympics, teaching physical education and coaching swimming at the high school until her untimely death in 1933. McKim captured bronze in the 400m freestyle at the Amsterdam Games. She returned to the Olympics in 1932 and won gold in the 400m relay.

Homestead again had two mermaids on the 1932 Olympic team. Anna Mae Gorman served as an alternate, traveling by train to Los Angeles to participate. Gorman grew up on what is now 8th Avenue, close by the mill where her father worked. At age 11 she began swimming at the library. Soon she moved up to the "big team" and started competing. After the Olympics, she continued to garner national championships with the women's relay team, undefeated in America from 1931-34. Gorman settled in Homestead, marrying her swim team sweetheart Russ Lindberg, himself a national champion and in 1936 captain of Pitt's team.

Homestead's ace mermaid Lenore Kight competed in both the '32 and '36 Olympics. Holder of seven world records, 23 National AAU titles, and 24 American records, Kight is perhaps best known for a race she did not win. During the 1932 Olympics, gold in the 400m freestyle went to Helene Madison over Kight by a fraction of a second. But Kight rebounded, winning every freestyle race she entered in 1933, and adding a bronze Olympic medal in 1936 to the silver she won in '32. Kight continued to teach swimming and set Master's records into her 80s.

The history lives on in Homestead. There in the library is a trophy case, filled with the artifacts of achievement won by the children of mill workers on local fields and at swim clubs around the nation. And several times a week, down in the basement, can be found Anna Mae Gorman Lindberg, still swimming at the pool where she and three others trained en route to national and Olympic glory.

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