WEST ORANGE, NJ - West Orange's own Olympian, Ginny Duenkel Fuldner, is coming home to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of her 1964 gold medal in the 400 meter freestyle and her bronze medal in the 100 meter backstroke at the Tokyo games.
On July 12, Duenkel Fuldner, who grew up on Fairview Avenue, attended the St. Cloud Swim Club (located on Pleasant Valley Way), and graduated from West Orange High School, will dedicate the Ginny Duenkel Pool's new Spray Pad at the municipal pool, which is named in her honor, followed by a ceremonial swim meet with the West Orange Waves Swim Team.
“West Orange is so proud that former Olympian Ginny Duenkel grew up right here in town and went on to become a trailblazer for women athletes in all sports, not just swimming,” Parisi said. “It is an honor that she was able to return to the pool that we named after her to celebrate the anniversary of her Olympic gold medal win.”
The community is invited to the event at the Ginny Duenkel Pool, located at 60 Cherry Street, on Saturday, July 12 beginning at 11:00 a.m. The Spray Pad will be dedicated in honor of Dennis and Timothy O'Boyle, brothers who both grew up in West Orange and recently passed away.
Following the ceremonial swim meet at 11:30 a.m, a buffet luncheon will be held at 12:30 p.m. at the Elks Club, locared at 424 Main Street, followed by dessert and coffee.
Duenkel Fuldner, now 67, currently resides in Monett, Missouri with her family. West Orange historian Joe Fagan wrote about her and her incredible accomplishments, while only a senior at West Orange High School, in his new book, Stories of West Orange.
He recounted that November 15, 1964 was decreed "Ginny Duenkel Day" in West Orange with a parade along Main Street that drew 12,000 residents and fans of the gold and bronze medalist.
In an interview with the Joplin Globe in 2008, Duenkel Fuldner described the inauspicious beginning of what was to become a storied Olympic career: “I was nine years old before I learned how to swim. My two brothers and parents spent whole summers at a local swim club, but I would never get into the water. I hung around the pool and found ways to entertain myself."
“One day, my father was frustrated that I would not get in the water. He picked me up and threw me in the pool. There was a lot of yelling and screaming going on, and people were looking at him like he had done something wrong,’’ she said. “When I figured out that I could stand up—the water was only knee deep—I thought 'this isn’t so bad after all.' I learned how to swim and the rest is history.’’
Fagan also described Duenkel Fuldner's bronze and gold medal wins at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Duenkel Fuldner considered her bronze medal in the 100-meter backstroke a defeat--she was the world record holder in the race. An Olympic coach at the games told her that all the Olympic athletes were in top condition and it was their mental preparedness that would give them the win. Taking the advice to heart, Dunkel Fuldner went into the 400-meter freestyle focused, and took the gold. In fact, it was an American sweep for gold, silver and bronze.
For more information about the Ginny Duenkel Pool, go to www.westorange.org.