With the 32nd Olympiad slated for next summer in Japan, Swimming World will tip its cap to history. Through its “Takeoff to Tokyo” series, the magazine will examine some of the most significant moments in Olympic lore.
In another hemisphere, as winter gave way to spring, a unique era dawned. Nearly two decades ago, there was belief a group of fresh-faced boys could emerge as mainstays for United States Swimming. As they raced over eight days at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, experts could not help but ask: “Is something special happening here?”
History has proven, time and again, that not all rising talents realize their touted potential. So, strictly from a mathematical perspective, the odds were against these six teenage guys to do what they did.
It’s not that teenagers are unusual on the global scene. Rather, for several to emerge on a simultaneous path—and then continue to grow their careers—is what sets the Sydney Six aside as a distinct group. More, their individual stories included unique arcs.
There was Michael Phelps and the beginning of his climb to the top of Mount Olympus. There was the precocious sprinter in Anthony Ervin, who later in his career would write an epic comeback tale. While Maine-raised Ian Crocker emerged from an unusual locale, Aaron Peirsol was next in a long line of Southern California talents to make his name known. For Klete Keller, an under-the-radar approach became the norm. Then there was Erik Vendt, whose training tenacity and grinder personality served him well.
The scenario that unfolded for Michael Phelps, Anthony Ervin, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol, Klete Keller and Erik Vendt could very well remain unmatched.
To read more about each swimmer of the Sydney 6, check out the November issue of Swimming World, out now!
In his first Remembrance Day tribute in Canberra today, Australian Governor-General David Hurley AC DSC, has paid tribute to legendary Olympic swimming gold medallist Cecil Healy – who remains the only Australian Olympic gold medallist to lose his life in the line of duty.
And sadly a man whose extraordinary deeds are still lost on many Australians.
General Hurley, himself a former senior Army officer who spent more than four decades in the military, delivered a moving and fitting commemorative address, honouring Healy, who had won gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm.
CECIL HEALY: Olympic gold medallist and War Hero Photos Courtesy:Healy Family Collection.
And who is also remembered for one of the most selfless acts of sportsmanship in Olympic history.
Healy, aged 33, lost his life serving with the Australian Imperial Forces during the Great War of 1914-18, a man who went on to enlist as an infantry platoon commander “despite his reservations about the causes and justification for the war” said General Hurley.
“Cecil Healy had no love of the military,” said General Hurley “No desire to fight. But he recognised that his values and his freedom was threatened.
“Reluctantly, he chose to serve, fully understanding the risk contained in that decision. In that, he is an example to us today….and we shall be forever grateful to the thousands of men and women, like Cecil, who we remember today.”
It was three years after his Olympic glory that Healy enlisted in the AIF on September 15, 1915 and after service as a quartermaster sergeant in the Army Service Corps in Egypt and France the champion Manly lifesaver and Olympic gold medallist transferred to the infantry officer school at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he swam, rowed, boxed and played rugby.
On June 1, 1918 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 19th (Sportsman’s) Battalion but was killed in his first action in the battle for Mont St Quentin, The Somme, on August 29 – just 74 days before the World War I Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918 and commemorated today.
DUKE KAHANAMOKU: Olympic champion and father of surfing. Photo Courtesy: Kahanamoku Collection.
And General Hurley’s due praise for Healy [Video of the speech at ABC] continued when he described as “the greatest act of sportsmanship in Olympic history” for Healy’s brave decision, when before the semi-finals of the 100m freestyle at the Stockholm Games, the US team, including race favourite Duke Kahanamoku had failed to arrive, he led a protest not to swim without Duke.
After a stand-off brought the Olympic swimming events to a stand-still, officials eventually agreed to wait for the Americans and it was Kahanamoku who went on to win the gold in 1:03.4 from Healy (1:04.6) with a second American Ken Huszagh taking the bronzed in 1:05.6.
The dramatic circumstance forged a friendship between Cecil and Duke that saw the Hawaiian “Father of Surfing” come to Sydney in 1915.
Healy helped organise Kahanamoku’s history-making visit, an adventure that inspired generations of surfboard riders – introducing the pastime to Freshwater Beach – where his surfboard remains in the club’s Hall of Champions (and it is fitting that in 2020, the sport of surfing will make its Olympic debut in Tokyo).
In his 2019 book “Cecil Healy – A Biography”1960 Rome 100m freestyle gold medallist John Devitt, with co-author Larry Writer, wrote “Healy refused to swim in the 100-metres final unless the Duke, the favourite, was allowed to compete. The great Hawaiian had missed his semi-final after a misunderstanding over the starting time. Healy’s gesture cost him victory but earned him a place in sport’s pantheon of true champions.”
Devitt, another true champion who had long seen Healy as his hero, with their lives travelling down such similar paths in sport and in life and it had been a life long ambition of Devitt’s to travel to The Somme to visit Healy’s grave and honour his fellow Olympic champion with a detailed biography of his life.
STOCKHOLM OLYMPIC 4x200m freestyle relay gold medallists Les Boardman, Malcolm Champion (NZL), Cecil Healy and Harold Hardwick Photo Courtesy: Healy Family Collection.
At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Devitt had been part of the Australian gold medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team with Jon Henricks, Murray Rose and Kevin O’Halloran – 44 years after Healy had won the same gold medal with Leslie Boardman, Malcolm Champion (NZL) and Harold Hardwick in Stockholm.
(Ironically it was another 44 year gap between Olympic gold medal victories, when Ian Thorpe, Michael Klim, Todd Pearson and Bill Kirby also won gold in the 4x200m freestyle).
Such was Devitt’s feelings for his hero, when Manly Council chose to honour Devitt (like Healy a long time Manly Swimming Swimming Club member) by naming their new eight-lane indoor pool after the 1956 and 1960 Olympic champion.
But Devitt convinced the powers-that-be to change the name to the Devitt-Healy pool.
Devitt, also a former Australian Olympic Committee executive, was one of the men instrumental in getting the Olympics to Sydney in 2000.
He told Robert Patterson of the Manly Daily that it was important to him to have Healy’s name next to his as a “tangible memento.”
ROME OLYMPIC 100m freestyle champion John Devitt. Photo Courtesy: John Devitt.
Former Manly Mayor Jean Hay had originally planned to name the pool after Mr Devitt, but after talks with him, she asked the Northern Beaches Council to change it. Ms Hay, a long time supporter of the Olympics and sport, said she had known Mr Devitt since she was 12 and said he was deserving of the recognition.
“I regard myself as having had a similar life (to Cecil Healy),” said Devitt, “We have enjoyed a great escalator, we have been successful but when the discussion came up I thought Cecil should have been recognised…and I said our names should be associated.”
Patterson wrote that the humble act by Mr Devitt was fitting, given Mr Healy’s reputation as one of Australia’s most honourable sportsmen for his unselfish act in 1912 that would have certainly seen him win that individual Olympic gold.
As an elite young swimmer, as a resident of Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches, where Healy once lived, and as a noted swimming historian, Devitt became engrossed in the Healy legend, writing the labour of love on his hero’s life.
THE GRAVE of fallen Olympian Cecil Healy in The Somme. Photo Courtesy: Healy Family.
And again today a further fitting tribute to Cecil Healy by General Hurley, some 101 years after the death of a true Australian champion.
Cecil Healy and John Devitt are both honorees in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale.
CECIL HEALY: A BIOGRAPHYis published by Stoke Hill Press. For more information about the book, or to arrange an interview with John Devitt or Larry Writer, please contact publisher Geoff Armstrong on the numbers listed above or via the Stoke Hill Press website: www.stokehillpress.com
István Szívós, Jr. – whose father was a two-time Olympic champion (in 1952 and 1956) and whose son, Marton, was a world champion and 2012 Olympian – has died in Budapest. Szívós took part in four Olympic Games and won four Olympic medals from 1968-1980. In addition to his Montreal title, he won silver medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and bronze medals at the 1968 Mexico City and 1980 Moscow Summer Games. In addition, he was a world and two-time European champion. He appeared in the national team at the age of eighteen in 1966 and played a total of 308 times until 1980. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame 1996, one year earlier than his father István Szívós, Sr., who won Olympic gold medals in water polo. The real water polo family of the Szívós family, István Szívós’s father, the older István Szívós was also an Olympic champion, while his son Márton Szivós won the gold of the World Championship.
Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame
István Szívós, Jr. was born on April 24, 1948 in Budapest. He was introduced the water polo at an early age and joined the Ferencváros Gymnastics Club (FTC) at the age of 12. His career was interesting. Because of his great size and extremely long arms, he would grow to a height of 6’8” with a wing span of 7 feet, he ushered in a new era in water polo that focused on the importance of the center forward position. Whether he caused the game to be tactically focused on the center position or he was the first star of the center oriented game is debatable, but according to Hall of Fame coach Dénes Kemény, the two are together.
It is no coincidence that Szívós played for the two clubs that dominated water polo in Hungary (FTC, OSC) during his career. In 1964, at the age of just 16, Szívós celebrated his first Cup championship, but in 1968, after playing in the Mexico City Olympic Games, he switched from playing for FTC to the Orvosegyetem Sport Club (OSC). The switch was not about money or any disagreement with FTC, it was because he wanted to be a dentist and it was customary at the time to play for a club associated with the university a player attended. Because of hostility on the part of FTC fans he sat out the first time the teams met after the change, but was encouraged by a friend who told him it was good “that they loved him so much “ He played for OSC for the remainder of his career and led them to several Hungarian and European Club titles.
Kemény said István Szívós is a role model because he continued his education as an Olympic and world champion, as a top athlete, and from the moment he received his diploma, he worked his entire life as a dentist without ever leaving the sport.
From 1974 he was an assistant professor at the SOTE Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics Department, from 1986 to 2010 he was an assistant professor. In addition to his work, he graduated from the College of Physical Education (now University) in 1981. From 1980 to 1981 he was the technical director of the Medicor OSC, and from 1983 to 1990 coached the FTC’s water polo team, and from 1986 to 1990 he was the leader of the youth and junior varsity teams.
In 1992 he was elected to the presidency of the Hungarian Water Polo Association, and in 2002 he became president of the Water Polo Department of the Central Sports School (KSI). He was selected as the Hungarian water polo player of the year three times (1969, 1970, 1971). In 1994 he was awarded the Civil Section of the Central Cross of the Republic of Hungary. In 1996 his handprint and signature were placed on the Wall of Hungarian Sports Stars. In 2000, he became a member of the Hungarian water polo team of the century, most of them from the 1976 Montreal championship team. In 2016, he received the László Papp Budapest Sports Award.
Born April 24, 1948 in Budapest
Clubs as players: Ferencváros (1960-1968), OSC (1968-1980)
Best player results: Olympic champion (1976), Olympic silver medalist (1972), 2x Olympic bronze medalist (1968, 1980), world champion (1973), 2x world champion silver medalist (1975, 1978), 2x European champion (1974, 1977), Europe silver medalist (1970), world cup winner (1979), 9x Hungarian champion (1965, 1968-1974, 1978), 5x Hungarian Cup winner (1964, 1965, 1967, 1970, 1974), 2x BEK winner (1973, 1978) )
Clubs as coach: Ferencváros (1983-1990), youth, youth selection (1986-1990)
Best results as coach: 2x Hungarian Champion (1988, 1990), 2x Hungarian Cup Winner (1989, 1990), European Youth Champion (1989)
Awards: 3x Hungarian water polo player of the year (1969-1971), Hungarian Republic Medal of the Cross (1994), International Swimming Hall of Fame (1996), member of the Hungarian water polo team of the century (2000), László Papp Budapest-Sports Award (2016) Ferenc Csík Award (2018)
George Breen, a four-time Olympic medalist between the 1956 Games in Melbourne and the 1960 Games in Rome, died on Nov. 9 after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 84. Breen is considered one of the finest distance freestylers in the history of United States Swimming and was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1975.
Born on July 19, 1935, Breen didn’t follow a typical path into the sport, as he did not begin his competitive career until his freshman year at Cortland State University. At Cortland State, Breen’s natural ability in the pool was guided by legendary coach Doc Counsilman, who molded Breen into one of his first standout athletes.
A 22-time national champion who established six world records during his career, Breen enjoyed his greatest success in the 1500 freestyle, an event in which he set the world record on two occasions. At the 1956 Olympics, Breen set a world record of 17:52.9 in the preliminaries of the 1500 freestyle, but he could not match that time in the final and settled for the bronze medal in a race won by Australian legend Murray Rose. That Olympiad also featured Breen winning a bronze medal in the 400 freestyle and a silver medal as a member of the United States’ 800 freestyle relay.
George Breen won four Olympic medals in two Games appearances.
Four years later, Breen again qualified to represent the United States in Olympic action, winning another bronze medal in the 1500 free after training under Counsilman at Indiana. At the 1960 Games, Breen’s veteran status led to him being named captain of Team USA. A year earlier, at the Pan American Games, Breen was the gold medalist in the 400 freestyle and the silver medalist in the 1500 freestyle.
Breen’s excellence in the sport extended beyond his athletic prowess as Breen also etched himself as an elite coach. Breen was the coach of the University of Pennsylvania from 1966-1982 and also served as a club coach for the Gloucester County Institute of Technology and the Jersey Wahoos.
Among his other achievements include being the Chair of the USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee, a longtime Board of Directors member for Middle Atlantic Swimming and a member of the USA Swimming Board of Directors as Coach Vice President of USA Swimming. Breen was also inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Cortland State Hall of Fame.
“I was a lucky person and met a lot of wonderful people,” Breen once said of his time in the sport. “Besides Doc, Indianapolis Athletic Club coach Gene Lee, Ray Essick and Frank Keefe also played an important role in my development. I met George Haines and learned there are a lot of coaches who were pretty smart guys. Then there were the swimmers. I say, ‘I don’t go to work. I go to swimming.’ I was taught to enjoy it. I think of swimming as a business in which you can run into clients for the rest of your life. Swimming offers so many positives, so you don’t have to dwell on the negatives.”
Bernard Freyberg, a New Zealander who distinguished himself both in swimming and in war, used his expertise in swimming to perform one of the most heroic acts of World War I.
Challenges. Everyone experiences them. They are, after all, an important part of life. But people react very differently to the challenges with which they are confronted.
Some people do everything they possibly can to avoid having to respond to life’s challenges. They try to blend in with the scenery, making themselves as inconspicuous as possible in the hope that no one will see them and force them to react. Other folks take a sort of neutral approach: they don’t go seeking challenges, but when confronted by them, respond as best they can.
But there’s another, much smaller group of people who actively seek out challenges, who choose to do battle against other individuals, institutions, the natural elements or simply the state of civilization. These people look for challenges by which to test themselves.
Such a man was Bernard Freyberg.
To read more about Bernard Freyberg and his feats of heroism in the water, check out the November issue of Swimming World, out now!
Through a constant drive for bettering herself, Simone Manuel has crafted a career for which she may eventually be remembered as the greatest American sprinter ever. But she has forever changed the sport, her impact reaching far beyond any medal she has won.
Because of her platform on the sport’s biggest stage, Manuel has opened up swimming to the African-American community on a level never before seen in the United States. Manuel cannot forget the many instances of parents approaching her to say that their son or daughter wanted to join swim lessons because they watched Manuel in the Olympics, and there were even instances of older people joining swim lessons because she had inspired them.
“I think it’s really cool that me swimming up the pool just a couple of times on TV can inspire people to get in the pool and learn how to swim or dream about things that they never thought they possibly could achieve,” she said.
Manuel grew up in a world where African-American swimmers were the exception, and above all else, that’s the change she wants to see in swimming.
“When I was 12 years old, I came home from swim practice, and I asked my mom why there weren’t many people that looked like me in the sport of swimming,” Manuel said. “We did some research, and we looked up African-American swimmers. Obviously, I knew of Cullen Jones and Maritza Correia, but I learned about Sabir Muhammad and Tanica Jamison and so many others who didn’t quite get the recognition that they deserved in the sport.”
To read more about Simone Manuel’s impact and her attitude toward Tokyo 2020, check out the November issue of Swimming World, available now!
A short 20-minute documentary on Division III RIT diving coach Cliff Devries will air on ESPN tonight, Tuesday October 29, at 9:00 p.m. EST. The documentary centers on Devries’ annual dive of the 3m springboard that he does on his birthday, which is tomorrow October 30.
Devries is currently in his 17th season as head diving coach of Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. He currently is the director for Upstate New York Diving, the largest diving club in New York.
This emotional short film takes the viewer through a day in the life of Devries as he prepares himself for his annual jump off the 3m springboard on his birthday, October 30. He has done a dive off the 3m on his birthday every year for over 15 years.
Devries was a former diver at the University of Kentucky in the early 90s where he had Olympic aspirations. But those dreams quickly came crashing down around him when an MRI revealed he had a six-inch tumor that was pressing up against his spinal cord, causing him to lose the function of his shoulder and arm. Devries had a 13-hour surgery on his spinal cord at age 21, and doctors had told him he would be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
Determined to prove the doctors wrong, Devries started working with occupational therapists to do simple tasks on his own like feeding himself and getting dressed, and eventually learn to walk again.
Right after his surgery, Devries started coaching diving for his high school team, and eventually he landed the diving job at RIT alongside his childhood friend and RIT swim coach Phil Baretela, despite not being able to walk.
Devries is married to his wife Stephanie and they have one daughter Grace, who Cliff helps coach in a “learn-to-dive” class.