McCracken with his nephew prior to the ‘75 Mizzoula Butterfly Convention
Bronze Medal, 200M Butterfly
Terrence McCracken rode a stunning wave of luck to all the way to the medal podium in Montreal, though his life would be tragically cut short mere months later as he tried to capitalize on his Olympic success.
Believing a local 200M Butterfly qualification event was a gathering of local amateur Lepidopterists, McCracken, age 47 was stunned to find himself ushered onto the starting blocks at the Midwestern Regional Olympic Qualifier. Wearing what would become his trademark attire: a natty tweed blazer and second-hand loafers, and having never learned how to swim, McCracken’s heat started inauspiciously as he splashed about trying to stay alive. Shocking the crowd, his unorthodox motion triggered the early generation Omega automatic timer so as to register a second place finish, advancing him through to National Qualification. Flown to Colorado Springs in a wave of confusion (McCracken occasionally suffered from debilitating dizzy spells due to an injury suffered in a mess hall incident while training for deployment to Seoul at Fort Lewis in Tacoma, Washington) he again shocked the swimming establishment by triggering the sensor in an American Record time of 2:00:74. McCracken suddenly found himself a favorite in Montreal. Though he didn’t wind up winning gold, losing to fellow American Mike Bruner, who referred to McCracken as a “reason to question everything, cause clearly I threw my goddamned life away on a sport with no meaning,” his inspiring third place finish led briefly to fame and fortune.
However, that fame would be fleeting. McCracken’s shock run to Bronze in Montreal led to the introduction of new, less sensitive pressure sensors that were unswayed by McCracken’s thrashings. An ill-fated appearance on the Gong Show further depreciated Terrence’s cache. He wound up perishing in the Lower Butte YMCA Middle Aged Adult Swim Off (Challenged Division) 50M Freestyle event eight months after his Olympic triumph. Local reports said he drowned waiting for a sensor glitch that would not come, refusing to allow the pool’s lifeguard to save him (somewhat ironically, the local event used judges rather than the Omega automatic timers). When asked about McCracken’s death, his former Olympic teammate Bruner noted, “he died doing what he loved, trying to back his fucking way into undeserved success.”