Tuesday, January 19, 2021

The great Captain Webb was born on this day in 1848......First man to swim the English Channel


First swimmer to cross the English Channel, 1875.

Immortality doesn't come often and once is enough for most swimmers, but not for Captain Matthew Webb, who was first to swim the English Channel in 1875.  This feat was an accomplishment of the impossible, according to all estimates up to that time.  Many tried but it was 36 years before anyone else (Burgess, 1911) ever made it across the Channel. But Webb was not around to greet No. 2. Webb's feat lasted 28 years longer than he did.  In an effort to bolster lagging attendance for his vaudeville act in 1883, just 8 years after his Channel swim, Captain Webb decided to try for immortality a second time by swimming across the rapids just above Niagara Falls.  Once again considered opinions said, "impossible" and this time they were right.  Webb is buried at Niagara Falls, Ontario.

But enough of Webb's failure and on to his accomplishment, a swimming record that stood 59 years until 1934.  It all started in 1862 when merchant seaman William Hoskins rode a bundle of straw from Griz Nez to South Foreland.  Captain Matthew Webb decided to try it without artificial bouyancy.  His first attempt failed, but as his fatigue faded, he planned again.  On August 25, 1875, he was successful.  The start was from Admiralty Pier at Dover; the time 4 minutes to one on Tuesday, August 24th.  With the southwesterly stream running at considerable speed, he ran into difficulty from the start.  Although ships had navigated the Channel for centuries, swimming it was a different proposition.  Tidal calculations, accurate enough for ship navigation, were by no means accurate for man navigation.  Therefore, in comparing Webb's effort with more recent ones, one great point must be constantly appreciated.  Not only was the swimmer attempting a new and colossal task, but so were the boatmen and pilots.  The present specialized knowledge has been built on the experience of the preceding years.  So, as a result of combined inexperience at that time, Webb was last seen from the English shore being swept vigorously westwards into the main English Channel.

For the main part of the passage, he swam breaststroke at 26 strokes a minute.  At one period in mid-Channel, a jellyfish sting temporarily slackened his pace.  And for the last two and a half hours he was so exhausted that his stroking became weak and irregular; indeed, much anxiety was felt about his ability to finish at all.  His cross-Channel diet was beer, brandy and beef tea.  Lack of modern knowledge was in some little way compensated by the lack of modern rules.  For instance, he had an attendant lugger and two rowing boats throughout.  And at the finish an outsize rowing-boat accompanied him on the weather side to keep the cresting waves from getting at him.

Webb finally reached the Calais sands at 19 minutes to eleven on Wednesday, August 25th.  A crowd of thousands massed on the French beach.  They gave him a rousing welcome as he was assisted into a horse-drawn vehicle in shallow water and taken to recuperate.  In England, of course, he became one of the greatest heroes that has ever arisen in peacetime.  The whole nation was depressed 8 years later when, at the age of 35, Captain Webb drowned.  He went over Niagara Falls, but not successfully.

Note: A special thanks to Cdr. Gerald Forsberg for excerpts from his book, Long Distance Swimming.

MISHOF Honoree Rich Burns is One in A Thousand!

Masters Hall of Fame swimmer Rich Burns has joined ISHOF’s “One in a Thousand campaign,” designed to help the hall prosper during the difficult financial times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel like I’ve always had a connection or affiliation to the Hall of Fame. The first time I ever swam down there was as a high school team in 1960 at the old casino pool, before the museum was even built. One of the people I worked with was on a team with the architects that designed the building so I was very familiar with the complex that was being developed and I had been a part of the swimming community for almost 75 years and I consider that to be the Citadel of swimming and the repository of everything swimming stands for. I have been a long time supporter.

“It was especially meaningful when they added Masters to the Honoree contingent and when I was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame in 2010, it was almost as if it had become a part of your whole dynamic as a swimmer.

Richard Burns

Rich Burns at the 1999 Masters Nationals. Photo Courtesy: Gerry Vuchetich / Swimming World Archive

“So when they introduced the one in a thousand to show support, I had been a member for as long as I could remember. This struck me as a way of attributing in a sustainable way, and particularly having that coincide with the reconstruction of the facility made it more important and significant. It was almost a small-token way in helping guarantee the future of the facility. There is something important in keeping the Hall of Fame in the place where it was born and has established its legacy.”

Burns, a long-time masters swimmer would frequently attend Masters Nationals when the meet was in Fort Lauderdale and is eager for the facility to finish construction so the meet can return to the site, which had become a fan favorite of fellow masters swimmers.

Burns is still swimming, even in the difficulties of the COVID pandemic. He lives in the Bay Area in northern California, and has shared a video with us about how he has adjusted his water time during the odd year that was 2020:

 “We have discovered that there are tremendous number of places that we can access water that are pretty attractive. They opened the pools in the summer and the rules were very Draconian with no locker rooms and only one per lane and no socializing, really. There is a reservation system that can get very convoluted – it’s a lot like trying to get a seat on Southwest Airlines, waiting for the moment when the clock strikes to reserve your space. We are nowhere near getting back to normal but I have probably swam more now than before. Workouts are shorter – we are in the water less than an hour.”

Join the One in a Thousand Club by helping ISHOF on a monthly or one-time basis.


For larger corporate sponsorships and estate-planning donations, please contact us at customerservice@ishof.org.

Rich Burns – 2010 Honor Masters Swimmer

If there is a common thread to Rich Burns’ swimming career, it has been the opportunity to swim on great teams with great swimmers.

Rich grew up in Chicago. His family had a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan where he spent every summer on the beach. Swimming to the sand bar, which was usually only 25 yards from shore, were his earliest swimming practices.


Rich Burns getting inducted in 2010. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

When he entered New Trier High School in 1957 he followed his best friend to the swim team tryouts and just managed to make the team. That New Trier team emerged as one of the best high school swim team ever assembled. In his senior year, they placed third in the AAU Nationals behind only Southern California and Indiana. Rich, however, was a ‘C’ team swimmer through the better part of his four years. A breakthrough swim mid-senior year earned him a 10th place All-American ranking in the 100 back but as the third fastest backstroker on the team, he never swam in a big meet.

He was recruited to Indiana University by Doc Counsilman to join a team comprised of that era’s swimming superstars. Olympic Champions, World Record holders, and All-Americans were his teammates, roommates and fraternity brothers. But despite these stellar influences, Rich Burns never achieved personal greatness.

Masters offered the chance to excel beyond what he had realized as a youth. In 1976 he was invited to drop by a local Masters meet. The lure of the pool was compelling. Although he hadn’t swum a competitive stroke in over ten years, he borrowed a suit and deck entered the meet. Though the race wasn’t pretty he was hooked. He joined coach Marie McSweeney’s Tamalpais Aquatic Masters program in San Rafael, California and has been there ever since.

Rich set his first World Records in 1983. Since then he has appeared on the Top 10 list for 23 of the next 25 years. He has set 37 FINA Masters World Records, 22 long course meters and 15 short course meters. He has also been a part of 16 World Record setting relays. Rich’s signature stroke is the backstroke but he has also set four I.M. and one butterfly records. He was named one of Swimming World magazine’s top six male Masters in 2008 and 2009.

He credits the camaraderie of his teammates and the quality of the competitors in his age group for his motivation and success.


The International Swimming Hall of Fame wants to know if you are one in a thousand?  We think you are! Show how special you are and become a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s “One In A Thousand” Club.  Help keep the International Swimming Hall of Fame moving forward toward a new vision and museum by joining now!

During these unprecedented times, the ISHOF Board is calling on every member in the aquatic community to make a small monthly commitment of support to show how special you are and how special the International Swimming Hall of Fame is to everyone.

Our goal is simple. If we get 1,000 people to simply commit $10, $25 or $50 per month, we will generate enough revenue to go beyond this Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis.” – Bill Kent – Chairman of the ISHOF Board

Those that believe in our vision, mission, and goals can join us in taking ISHOF into the future and be a part of aquatic history.”  – Brent Rutemiller – CEO and President of ISHOF

Since 1965, ISHOF has been the global focal point for recording and sharing the history of aquatics, promoting swimming as an essential life-skill, and developing educational programs and events related to water sports. ISHOF’s vision for the future is to build a new museum and expand its reach by offering its museum artifacts digitally through a redesigned website.

The ISHOF Board of Directors is calling on all members of the aquatics community to make a small monthly commitment to show their dedication to aquatics and how special the International Swimming Hall of Fame is to everyone.

Happy Birthday Evgeni Sadovyi !!


FOR THE RECORD: 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m freestyle, 400m freestyle, 4x200 freestyle relay); TWO WORLD RECORDS: 400m freestyle, 4x200m freestyle relay; 1991 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (400m freestyle, 4x200m relay); 1993 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (2 relays), silver (200m freestyle).

In 1992, Evgeni Sadovyi of the United Team was chosen World Swimmer of the Year. Probably never before has there been a more unexpected winner of this award. He had been ranked third and ninth in the 400m and 200m freestyles in 1991, but in Barcelona he captured 3 Olympic gold medals – the most in men’s competition. He shattered the world record by 1.95 seconds in the 400m freestyle and achieved the world record-setting 800m free relay.

Born in 1973 in Volzsky, Russia, Sadovyi started swimming at age six. In an economically depressed region, his grandmother took him to swim, with the dream of making it to the Olympic Games. In 1981, his family moved to Volgograd where he continued swimming on the “TROUT” team of kids. His mother worked long-hard hours to support him both morally and financially. After a year of disappointment academically in a special sports training school, his mother enrolled him in the School of Olympic Reserve where he grew with success. Three years later in 1983, his coach Victor Avdienko began training him for international competition. Soon after, in the USSR vs. GDR Dual Meet, he won the 400m freestyle and 4 x 200m medley relay. The next year in 1988, he won the National 4 x 200m medley relay. It was here he was presented a copy of Vladimir Salnikov’s life story. It became the motivational key to Sadovyi’s drive for success.

In 1989 at the World Cup in Rostok, GDR, the small thin Sadovyi imagined himself as Arnold Schwarzenegger to swim against the big East German swimmers. Spectators giggled when they compared “skeleton-in-skin” Sadovyi to the hunk Yve Dassler. But he won the 400m freestyle and the giggling stopped. When he swam the 800m freestyle, he stopped at the 750m mark thinking the race over. After everyone else turned and kept swimming, he pushed off the wall and caught up to a spectacular second place finish. At the 1990 European Championships, he set a Junior Record in the 400m free. He competed in the 1991 last Sports Festival of the USSR and the 1991 European Championships in Greece winning the 400m free and 4 x 200m relay.

In early 1992, an operation to remove stones from his body almost kept him out of the Barcelona Olympics. But his perseverance qualified him for the team and won 3 gold medals at the Games 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and the 4 x 200 freestyle relay. Upon his return home from Barcelona, he was greeted by President Boris Yeltsin and IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. He was awarded Russia’s Athlete of the Year, a special prize from the Olympic Committee and a gold watch from the President.

The Barcelona press called him “a water king” and “golden boy of Russia”, but he remained open-hearted with a shy but disciplined demeanor. Following the 1993 European Championships in England where Evgeni won gold medals on two relay teams and a silver in the 200m freestyle, disappointment began to set in and he decided to take a rest. By September of 1996, he decided to withdraw from training and put his efforts into assisting his coach Victor Avdienko, now Head Coach of the Russian Swimming Team at Swimming Club Volga.

Monday, January 4, 2021

MISHOF Honoree Ted Haartz passes Away on New Years Day, 2021

Frederick “Ted” Haartz, who spent more than four decades as an administrator at the highest levels of U.S. Masters Swimming, died on Jan. 1.

Haartz was 92 years old. His death was announced by his family via social media.

Ted Haartz

Haartz swam at Tufts University and competed in Masters swimming starting in the 1970s. He was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2013.

Haartz became synonymous with the Top Ten Times list that he established and maintained across all of the Masters age groups for more than a decade. He was present at the formation of the original group of 55 Local Masters Swimming Committees (LMSC) and was a charter member of the New England Masters Swim Club. He competed for New England at the second Masters National Championships in 1971, winning a national title in the 100 individual medley.

His volunteer work quickly went from the local to the national. He served a term as the chairman of the Masters Swimming Committee off the AAU and was instrumental in separating the organization from the AAU, then serving as the president of the newly independent U.S. Masters Swimming. He also held various other offices and sat on a number of committees. He spent more than three decades on the USMS Board of Directors and as an ex-officio liaison to USA Swimming.

From his ISHOF bio:

He has been instrumental in developing USMS into a cohesive organization, one that could grow and become independent. In 2008, Ted was sought after to help USMS hire an Executive Director to lead the growing organization. Ted has 43 years of continuous service to USMS.

In the pool, Haartz set five Masters world records and 11 Masters American records. A breaststroke specialist, he competed over 10 age groups from 1971 on and was present at every long-course Masters Championship from 1973-2010.

In 2009, USMS named an award in his honor, the Ted Haartz Staff Appreciation Award, of which Haartz was the inaugural recipient.

Among Haartz’s awards are:

  • Capt. Ransom D. Arthur M.D. Award (1976)
  • Presidential Appreciation Award for meritorious contributions to USMS (1978-1981)
  • Outstanding Leader in Masters Swimming (1980)
  • Presidential Service Award recognizing outstanding service as a USA Swimming Liaison (1995)
  • U.S. Masters Swimming National Championship Meets Award (1996)
  • A Lifetime of Service to Swimming Award by the Arizona LSC (2005) (Haartz moved to Arizona in his retirement)

Friday, December 18, 2020

Happy Birthday Igor Milanovic, ISHOF 2006 Honor Water Polo Player!

Igor Milanovic 2006 Honor Water Polo Player


Yugoslavia won its first water polo Olympic gold medal in 1968, breaking Hungary’s (and to a lesser degree, Italy’s) Olympic water polo dynasty. Hall of Fame players, Mirko Sandic, Zdravko Korvacic and Zoran Jankovic all helped give special rise to Yugoslavia’s water polo success. Although Yugoslavia won the silver medal 12 years later in 1980, it was in 1984 and 1988 that they won back-to-back gold medals in Olympic competition, largely due to the driving ability of the great Igor Milanovic. The Partizan Club was the country’s leading water polo team and produced most of the Yugoslavian Olympic players, including 6’10” Milanovic.

Igor joined the Partizan Club Team at age ten in 1975 and under the coaching of Nicola Stamenic and Vlaho Orlic; he soon became a skillful and inspirational player. At age 18, legendary coach Ratko Rudic promoted him from the junior team to the national team just in time for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where he was instrumental in his team winning the gold medal. Four years later at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he once again steered his team to gold. At the height of his career, the Balkan War prevented his team from competing during the years between 1992 to 1995, thus forfeiting the 1992 Olympics.

Throughout his career, he also competed for Mladost, Croatia; Roma, Italy; and Katalugnia, Spain, the latter two in the Professional League. His career includes over 300 international competitions. He has scored over 450 goals

Each of his coaches place him in high regard with Coach Rudic stating that he is the only player who could play in every position on the team.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

On this day in 1917, ISHOF Honor Swimmer, Ralph Flanagan was born....

RALPH FLANAGAN (USA) 1978 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1936 silver (4x200m freestyle relay); WORLD RECORDS: 2; AMERICAN RECORDS: 26; NATIONAL AAU Titles: 20 Held all American freestyle records from 220 yards to a Mile.

In his days, which were the 1930's plus a few years on each end, no American won so many National AAU titles as Ralph Flanagan who came out of the Miami Biltmore Hotel pool to challenge the world and in the process set all the American Freestyle Records from the 220 to the Mile.  Ralph has stayed in swimming as a lifelong Red Cross professional, most recently the Director of Safety Programs in Los Angeles.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Former ISHOF CEO, Bruce Wigo, inducted into USA Water Polo's Class of 2020

Last night, after a four month delay due to COVID-19, USA Water Polo feted its 2020 Hall of Fame class of honorees. It was worth the wait as new inductees Gavin ArroyoKelly RulonGary RobinettElsie Windes and Bruce Wigo, along with previous Hall of Fame honorees, were recognized in an online ceremony streamed on YouTube and Facebook.

[USA Water Polo 2020 Hall of Fame Presentation]

usawpDespite the virtual format—for the first time in 36 years the Hall of Fame ceremony was  exclusively online—the seamless presentation represents one of few recent polo-related events that celebrate the sport in this country. The coronavirus has severely curtailed play throughout the country, and a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in California has again shutdown any polo competition in the home base of the sport in America.

Many of the inductees as well as their presenters acknowledged the changed landscape for their sport and country. In opening the festivities, Greg Mescall, USAWP’s Director of Communications, contrasted this year’s event with those of the past, while John Tanner, Stanford’s women’s coach and a 2019 honoree, made reference to last year’s raucous celebration—then emphasized that this year’s format was a “leveling” in that all around the country will participate equally.

Arroyo, being honored for his three decades of national team participation, first as a player on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic squads and in his current roles as  top assistant to national team coach Dejan Udovicic and head of the organization’s Olympic Development Program (ODP), mentioned in his induction speech finding joy in tough times.

USAWP_HOF_2020A four-time national champion playing for Adam Krikorian at UCLA (2003-07), which included being selected the the 2007 Cutino Award as the nation’s best female collegiate polo athlete, Rulon’s story perhaps underscores the type of resilience needed in these challenging times. After representing the U.S. in the 2004 Athens Olympics—where the Americans captured bronze—Guy Baker, then the U.S. women’s coach, chose not to include Rulon on the 2008 roster. In one of the more memorable upsets in the history of the women’s program, Team USA dropped an 9-8 decision to the Netherlands in the gold medal match at Beijing’s Ying Tung Natatorium—surprising because Baker’s squad had decimated the Dutch in pre-Olympic scrimmages.

According to Doug Peabody, Rulon’s age group coach in San Diego, when Krikorian took over leadership of the women’s program in 2009, one of his first calls was to his former UCLA star, inviting her back to the team. To the benefit of all, Rulon accepted; the U.S. proceeded to capture its first-ever Olympic gold in water polo at the 2012 London Olympics, as Rulon chipped in four goals.

Recognized by peers Bret BernardTom Hermstad and Steve Rotsart as “the best American referee to never officiate an Olympics,” Robinett’s story reflects the continued excellence of officiating in the U.S., a thankless task that the Hall of Fame has wisely acknowledged, including in its ranks William FradyAndy TakataTerry Sayring, Bernard and Hermstad among others.

In his acceptance speech, the now-Hall of Fame referee cited the some of the best polo minds America has produced—Bill BarnettKen LindgrenTed Newland and Monte Nitzkowski—who he wisely solicited to hone his craft.

[Passages: Bill Barnett, Former Olympic Men’s Water Polo Coach, Passes Away at 76]

Elsie Windes, the first-ever water polo Olympian from Oregon, was a teammate of Rulon’s on the 2012 Olympic team after a stellar career at Cal-Berkeley (2004-07), resulting in a 2018 induction into the California Hall of Fame. She also won silver as a member of the 2008 Olympic squad. Refreshingly, Windes’ parents Betty and Doug in their comments described bemusement at their daughter’s polo success—along with great pride in her selection to the highest honor for the sport.


Bruce Wigo and Brent Rutemiller at ISHOF; Photo Courtesy: J.M. Streiner

Closing out the ceremony, Wolf Wigo—a 2011 inductee as three-time Olympian and two-time NCAA winner at Stanford—welcomed his father Bruce to Hall of Fame membership.

One of the most influential polo administrators in the country, for 13 years (1991-2004) the elder Wigo was the executive director of US Water Polo, steering the organization through rocky financial times while scoring specific successes, including a push to include women’s polo as an Olympic sport—achieved at the 2000 Sydney Games—and luring Ratko Rudic, arguably the most successful coach in the sport’s history, to lead the American men at the 2004 Athens Games.

[Swimming World Presents “Lessons with the Legends: Water Polo Coach Ratko Rudic”]

Dan Sharadin, who like Wigo has had tremendous impact on the sport in this country, recounted how his former boss championed women’s polo at the collegiate level, helping to establish the NCAA as arguably the best women’s competition in the world. It regularly draws top international players to ply their craft as student athletes at American institutions.

Befitting both the moment and his stature as a statesman for the sport, in closing Wigo cited the many individuals who helped him in his journey to sustain the sport in America, including the recently deceased Andy Burke and Sayring as well as  Barnett, Pete CutinoDennis FosdickBob HelmickBob HornBarbara KalbusSteve Heaton, Newland and Nitzkowski, USAWP Hall of Fame members who have all passed away.

[Passages: Andy Burke, Devoted US Water Polo Administrator, 91]

It was an apt close to a moment of celebration for a sport that—like most everything in the U.S.—has suffered greatly during the pandemic, and a reminder that better times are ahead.