Michelle de Bruin (née Smith) is, to date the most successful Olympian in Ireland. She won three Gold Medals and one Bronze Medal in swimming competitions at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. She also won four Gold and three Silver European Championship Medals. She won her last medal at the European Championships in 1997.
Michelle de Bruin was born Michelle Smith in Rathcoole Co Dublin on December 16th 1969. She began her swimming training in 1998 at the age of nine. In that year she won the All-Ireland Community Games competition. She won her first Gold Medals at a novice competition, and at the age of 14, she became National Junior and Senior Irish Champion.
Smith moved to the United States to study Communications (film and television) at the University of Houston. At the university she was able to avail of advanced training techniques. Her times improved and she qualified for the Irish team to compete in the Seoul Olympics in 1988. She was eliminated in the qualifying rounds.
Having graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Houston, Smith again qualified for the Irish team to compete in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Despite injury she competed but again was eliminated in the qualifying rounds. After the 1992 Olympics Smith moved to Holland where she trained with Erik de Bruin whom she had met in Barcelona.
At the European Championships in Vienna in 1995 Michelle Smith won Gold Medals in both the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley. She qualified for the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. She won three Gold Medals (400m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 400m individual medley). She also won a Bronze Medal in the 200m butterfly. Her success caused controversy and a disappointed American swimmer, Janet Evans, highlighted accusations that Smith had been accused of doping. The accusations however were never proven and Evans later apologised to Smith. Smith competed in the European Championships in Seville in 1997 where she won two Gold and one Silver medal.
In 1998 Michelle who was now married to Erik de Bruin was accused by FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation) of tampering with a urine sample and was banned from competition for four years. She denies any wrongdoing and retains her Olympic Medals. She retired from swimming in 1999 and began studying law at University College Dublin. She was conferred with the degree of Barrister at Law of King’s Inns in 2005. She now lives in Kells, Co Kilkenny with her family and practises as a barrister.
Michelle de Bruin (née Smith), who denies any wrongdoing and retains her Olympic Medals, was given a four year ban from swimming by FINA in the year 1998 On This Day.
Olympic Park, Atlanta