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June 08, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Gold medalist Pokey Watson enters local Hall of Fame Gold medalist Pokey Watson enters local Hall of Fame (June 08, 2005)

** Former Portola Valley resident one of 10 athletes inducted June 23.

Former Portola Valley resident Lillian "Pokey" Watson Richardson, who won gold medals in the 1964 and 1968 Olympic games as a world class swimmer, will be inducted into the San Mateo County Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday, June 23.

Ms. Richardson will be one of 10 athletes to be honored at the induction banquet at the San Mateo Elks Lodge. The event benefits the San Mateo County History Museum.

Ms. Richardson was only 14 when she won two Olympic golds in Tokyo in 1964, as a member of the women's sprint freestyle relay team. Four years later, she won gold in Mexico City for an individual 200-meter backstroke, setting a then-Olympic record of 2:48.8.

She became the youngest American swimmer to win a gold medal. After 40 years, the record still stands.

"Pokey"(a nickname given her by her father) Watson moved to Portola Valley with her family in 1958. She began her swimming career as an 8-year-old at Ladera Oaks Swim and Tennis Club. By the time she was 11, she was training with legendary coach George Haines of the Santa Clara Swim Club.

For the next four years her parents drove her back and forth to Santa Clara, often twice daily, for practice until the family moved to San Jose. She graduated from Santa Clara High School in 1968.

At the conclusion of the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, she went on to college and graduated from UCLA. She coached swimming at USC from 1973 to 1979.

She and her husband, Allen Richardson, an All-American swimmer at Yale University, were married at Portola Valley Presbyterian Church in 1971. They moved to Hawaii, where he became the chief of sports medicine at the University of Hawaii. Dr. Richardson died of cancer in 2003.

Today Ms. Richardson still resides in Hawaii. The Richardson's three children, Andrew, Annie and Puna, all have competed in college sports.

Tickets to the Hall of Fame banquet are $50. For information, call 348-4332.

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