Helen Mathews was born in Munich, but her father moved the family to the United States, Americanized the family name, and immersed his children in sport, while forbidding talk of politics.
Now, 20 years later, Helen is a world-class swimmer, and a medal favorite for the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, yet politically naive as the American team arrives in a racially charged, vainglorious Germany, where the Nazi regime is all too happy to use the young woman for political purposes.
Caught up in the charismatic approaches of a member of the German press, Helen ignores the warnings of her on-again, off-again boyfriend, a fellow swimmer and Italian American who has personal experience with fascism. She promises herself that once the gold medal is hers, she will speak her mind on the matter of peace between the two great countries.
And then, on the eve of her gold medal swim, a chance meeting with an old mentor opens her eyes to the truth, that she is being used as a tool of the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, who vows to ruin her if she doesn’t accept tainted assistance and in return, make a public gesture in support of the regime.