Coralie O'Connor

Swimmer, 1952 Olympics; Physical Education Teacher

There wasn’t any swim team for girls back then. My parents were able to talk the swim coach at the Lincoln Square Boys Club into having me coming down and it would be just me. He would watch me swim and make corrections. And then give me a workout to do, which I would try to get done, at the Whitinsville Community Center. The YW [YWCA] found their pool on Chatham Street was donated to with the stipulation that there would be no girls competitive swim team. If they wanted to do synchronized swimming, that was okay, but you couldn’t do no racing. So, the only time I could get in there would be when there was an open swim, and then I would have to swim around people to do a lane. And my coach at Lincoln Square Boys Club would call my house and say, “The executive director’s not here today, I can sneak you in.” [laughs] So, then I’d rush down to the Boys Club and have him watch me. And he’d give me a workout and sometimes I would be doing it with the boys on the Boy’s Club team.


Coralie O’Connor, who swam in the 1952 Olympics in Finland, was born in Worcester in 1934, and had an older brother and an older sister. All of her immediate family has passed; she is the only one left. Swimming was a big part of her life, and she participated in her first swim competition when she was just 12 years old. She attended Purdue University for four and one half years. She participated and swam on club swim teams. As there were not many opportunities for women to swim back then, she even swam on a boys’ team one time. After her swim team qualified as a national swim team, they went to Finland for the Olympics and they were there for two weeks. O’Connor stopped competing in the 1960s after she tried out and did not qualify. After this, she became a physical education teacher and started a local swim team here in Worcester. Currently, she is 81 years old and she lives in Worcester. She has retired from teaching but she does water aerobics and volunteers at a local church here in Worcester.

Interview Date: 
November 17, 2015
Interview Focus: