Graham Johnston Passes Away Legendary Swimmer was 88. May 15, 1931 – July 27, 2019
The world lost legendary swimmer Graham Johnston at age 88.
Graham was born on May 15, 1931 and raised in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He learned to swim at the age of 4 and loved it, and all sports, lettering in five during high school. In 1946 at age 15, he became the South African Junior Diving champion; repeating this feat in 1947 and 1948. He also was South African National Junior Swimming Champion in 1946, 1947, and 1948.
In 1948, Graham’s older brother, Don, swam in the 1500m freestyle at the London Olympic Games, after he barely touched Graham out to qualify for the South African team.
In 1952 Graham was selected to represent South Africa in the Olympic Games held in Helsinki. He competed in the 400- and 1500-meter freestyle and swam a leg of the 800-freestyle relay. After his Olympic performance, Graham was one of the first foreign-born athletes to receive a scholarship at an American university. He was awarded a full swimming scholarship at the University of Oklahoma where he was named an NCAA All-American for three years. In his senior year he became a student coach and one of the Freshmen he inspired and shared his considerable training and racing skills was Jeff Farrell, who went on to win 2 gold medals at the 1960 Olympic Games.
Photo Courtesy: ISHOF
Graham qualified once again for the South African Olympic team in 1956, but elected not to compete because the dates conflicted with his final semester at Oklahoma.
Graham would have been the first to tell you that 1952 was a banner year for him, not because he swam in the Olympics, but because he met his future wife, Janis, at Oklahoma that year. Graham and Janis married in 1955 and Graham retired from swimming the next year. The couple moved to Houston, Texas in 1962 where they raised their five children.
After being away from competitive swimming for sixteen years, from 1956 to 1972, Graham returned to the sport at the age of 41 and in 1973 swam in his first master’s national championship in Santa Monica, California. This success was followed over the next forty-seven years by national championships, national records, world championships and world records too numerous to recount.
In 1998 Graham was inducted into The International Swimming Hall of Fame (“ISHOF”) at age 67. During this period while swimming in the 65-69 age group, Graham held every national record at every freestyle distance from 100 yards in the pool to the 10k open water swim. He was the first and at the time only person to hold all seven United States masters national long-distance swimming records in any age group. In 2001, he was voted masters swimmer of the year. Graham was not only a regular participant at national and world championships with Janice at his side, but he also loved open water swimming and won the oldest open water swim in the country, the Waikiki Rough Water Swim eight years in a row from 1993 to 2000. He was the first swimmer over the age 60 to complete the swim in under an hour. He was the oldest and fastest of all age groups to complete the Robben Island to Capetown, South Africa swim in 51-degree water without a wetsuit. Graham also enjoyed the Lanai to Maui Channel relay and at age 74 became the oldest man to swim the Straits of Gibraltar. Simply put Graham loved to swim, anytime, anywhere.
Graham was inducted into the Texas Swimming and Diving hall of Fame in 2009, the National Senior Games Hall of Fame in 2011, and, the Huntsman World Senior Games Hall of Fame in 2012. Graham was the epitome of masters swimming and truly one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors. The Dad’s Club of Houston, where he trained, and Graham are synonymous. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Jim Montgomery summed-up Graham’s swimming career well:
“Spanning over seven decades Graham was truly one of the greatest competitive swimmers of all time”.
Photo Courtesy: ISHOF
Graham is survived by his beloved wife, Janis, their five children Kevin, Linda, Jenny, Bruce, and Shelly, and their grandchildren. Graham will be irreplaceable to his family and those he sought out (and who sought him out) and connected with at swimming events around the world. The swimming community all over the world are better off having known and connected with Graham. They will carry his legacy forward to others.
Summing up Graham’s swimming accomplishments, glowing as such a summary is, does not however sum up the man. There can be no finer tribute to pay him than to sum up the man as Hamlet did his father: “He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.”
Simone Manuel became the sixth woman to win the sprint freestyle double at a single World Championships after she added the 50m title to her 100m freestyle gold in a race to the wall in which the top three were separated by just 0.06secs.
She became the sixth woman to win gold in the women’s 50m and 100m freestyle at a single World Championships, and the first since Bronte Campbell of Australia in 2015.
With victory Manuel became the third woman to have won at least 11 gold medals joining an elite club with fellow Americans Katie Ledecky (15) and Missy Franklin (11).
The yellow caps of Cate Campbell and Sarah Sjostrom were locked stroke for stroke but it was the American in lane six who got the touch in 24.05secs, the fifth-fastest in the world this year.
Sjostrom was second in 24.07 ahead of Campbell who touched in 24.11.
It was a perfect start to the evening for Manuel who then went on to swim the freestyle leg of the winning 4x100m medley relay team that set a new world record in the final event of the competition.
She reflected: “I think also it’s pretty evident we didn’t start on the best note but also we did have a great meet and I think that’s getting a little lost.
“We had amazing swims, people had best times and even if they missed the podium at the end of the day we always want to represent our country the best we can and also we want to swim our best and I definitely think every swimmer that stepped up on the blocks this week did that.”
It was Sjostrom’s third freestyle medal of the week after she claimed bronze in both the 100m and 200m freestyle, the latter an event she once vowed she would never do again.
The Swede also made history be becoming the first woman to win medals in the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle at the same World Championships.
She is also the first woman to have won five medals in individual events at a single world championships – 50m butterfly (gold), 100m butterfly (silver), 50m freestyle (silver), 100m freestyle (bronze), 200m freestyle (bronze).
“I am very happy that I could get another medal, my fifth individual medal here,” she said.
“I don’t think many people have won medals in 50, 100 and 200 freestyle before, I’m not sure.
“Especially not with two extra events on the side – the 50 and 100 fly. It was a very close race but I am happy because I had such a tough programme, I wanted to challenge myself. I didn’t know if it was the right decision to do that but I am very, very pleased I decided to do such a tough programme.”
On the road to the World Championships, Japan’s Daiya Seto put together a flurry of superb performances over several different events. But there is no arguing that the 400 individual medley was the one in which he looked most dominant, and Seto certainly delivered in that discipline on Sunday night at the Nambu University Aquatics Center.
The 25-year-old, already with a personal-best time from last month in Rome, led wire-to-wire and touched for the gold medal in 4:08.95. The victory handed Seto a sweep of the medley events, and complemented a silver medal in the 200 butterfly. Based on Japan’s qualifying system for the Olympic Games, as a world champion, Seto will receive automatic berths to Tokyo 2020 in both medleys.
Adding to world titles he claimed in 2013 and 2015, Seto went through the butterfly leg in 55.73 and turned at the midway point in 1:58.82. A strong breaststroke leg allowed Seto to move through the 300-meter mark in 3:08.89, and gave him enough of a cushion to hold off fast-charging American Jay Litherland. Posting a career best of 4:09.22, Litherland reeled in Seto with every stroke on the freestyle leg, just coming up shy of a major upset. Litherland split 56.99 over freestyle, compared to the 1:00.06 of Seto.
The bronze medal went to New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt in 4:12.07, with Spain’s Joanllu Pons finishing fourth in 4:13.30.
“I was lucky to win gold,” Seto said. “I saw him (Litherland). I thought by building up such a big lead, I could overcome any challenge. That I didn’t swim that well at the end is an area for improvement next year (ahead of the Olympics).”
While Seto captured another world title, there was a missing element to the final. American Chase Kalisz, the defending champion, was expected to duel with Seto in the latest chapter of their years-long rivalry. But Kalisz had a disastrous preliminary performance, his time of 4:15.62 leaving him in 10th place and two spots shy of the final. The bronze medalist in the 200 medley earlier in the meet, Kalisz did not stop to speak to reporters about his failure to advance in the 400 IM, his frustration clearly evident.
The other glaring omission from the final was Seto’s countryman Kosuke Hagino, the reigning Olympic champion. In the leadup to the World Champs, Hagino announced he was taking a break from the sport to deal with depression and a lack of motivation. After a few months out of the water, Hagino revealed the spark to compete had returned, and he was dedicating himself to qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in his homeland. Between Kalisz’s World Champs outcome and Hagino’s comeback, the 400 medley in Tokyo will feature some intriguing storylines.
Before Hagino embarked on his brief hiatus from the sport, Seto found himself largely in the shadow of his countryman, despite the fact that he owned multiple world titles. But Seto has emerged as his country’s headliner this year, thanks to his consistency over the medley events and 200 fly. Seto, too, has proven himself to be a world-class performer in the 200 breaststroke. For good reason, he’ll be one of those most-hyped athletes in Japan as the Olympics approach in the Land of the Rising Sun.
“I had a good meet,” Seto said. “But I want to be the Olympic champion next year.”
Photo Courtesy: PATRICK B. KRAEMER
For Litherland, his gutsy performance was a major breakthrough and will no doubt serve as a major confidence boost for the Olympic campaign. After notching fifth-place efforts in the 400 medley at the 2016 Olympics and the 2017 World Champs, Litherland moved up to fourth in the event at last summer’s Pan Pacific Championships. He used Gwangju as an opportunity to stand on a major international podium for the first time.
Known for his closing speed on the freestyle leg, Litherland was a freight train over the last two lengths. By reaching the podium, the University of Georgia product extended the United States’ streak of medals in the 400 IM at the World Champs to seven. His effort in Gwangju made him the 11th-fastest performer in history and marked his second time under the 4:10 barrier.
“Toward the flags in, I was like ‘ahh come on!’ but it’s ok,” Litherland said of his late charge. “He’s a fierce competitor and I learned a lot from this meet. I kind of finally know how to taper things through and it’s the last event of the meet, so moving on for sure. (Seto) said he thought I was going to catch him. He was dying. He was hurting a little bit but almost.”
The fifth seed heading into the final, Clareburt moved up two spots and was never out of a podium position. Sitting in second through the first three laps, Clareburt settled into third at the 200-meter point and remained there through the finish. He is the first New Zealand male medalist at the World Championships since Danyon Loader won three medals in 1994 in Rome.
“That was awesome for me,” Clareburt said. “To touch the wall and see the bronze medal, it’s indescribable. I don’t know if I will ever get that feeling ever again.”
1. Daiya Seto, Japan 4:08.95 2. Jay Litherland, United States 4:09.22 3. Lewis Clareburt, New Zealand 4:12.07 4. Joanllu Pons, Spain 4:13.30 5. Peter Bernek, Hungary 4:13.83 6. Maksym Shemberev, Azerbaijan 4:14.10 7. Max Litchfield, Great Britain 4:14.75 8. Arjan Knipping, Netherlands 4:17.06
In a meet with a lot of upsets and surprises, including Katie Ledecky getting beat in the 400 free and Sarah Sjostrom getting touched out in the 100 fly, there weren’t any sure bets for if Katinka Hosszu would win a fifth 400 IM world title. But Hosszu was able to fend off the field with a 4:30.39 to become the first woman to win the same event at World Championships five times. Hosszu won in 2009, 2013, 2015, 2017 and now in 2019. Sjostrom had an opportunity to become the first to win the same event five times but was upstaged by Canadian Maggie MacNeil in the 100 fly.
Hosszu had shown signs of vulnerability this week after getting eighth in the 200 back, but she was able to put it behind her to win the 400 IM.
Hosszu won the 400 IM final ahead of the second fastest swimmer in history, Ye Shiwen of China. Ye was able to make the podium for the first time at a major meet in this event for the first time since she broke the world record in 2012 at the London Olympic Games. Ye was second at 4:32.07 as she ran down Japan’s Yui Ohashi (4:32.33).
On winning five titles, Hosszu said this:
“For me, you are going into a 400 IM the last day of a world champs – it is not what you are thinking about – oh my God this is my ninth gold medal or my fifth 400 IM gold. It’s not something that gets you going. Today was a big fight: it always is on the last day of a world champs to swim a 400IM. I like it because it’s tough, it’s challenging and it hurts a lot, it shows you are. And I am happy with the time as well: going this time at the end of a world champs is definitely really good and prepares to swim the first day in the Olympics.”
Hosszu also won the 200 IM earlier in the week as she won both IM’s in the same Worlds for the fourth time. The 200/400 IM double was also achieved six other times in World Championships history. Tracy Caulkins (1978), Petra Schneider (1982), Lin Li (1991), Yana Klochkova (2003) and Katie Hoff (2005, 2007) also achieved the 200/400 IM double in the same Worlds.
Canada’s Sydney Pickrem (4:36.72) and Emily Overholt (4:37.52) had slightly off swims as they added from their best times. USA’s Ally McHugh, swimming in her first World Championships final, placed sixth at 4:38.34. Hungary’s Zsuzsanna Jakabos (4:39.15) and France’s Fantine Lesaffre (4:39.68) also swam in the final.
The 2019 FINA World Swimming Championships came to a close on Sunday night in Gwangju, South Korea with Caeleb Dressel and Sarah Sjostrom being announced as swimmers of the meet. Dressel won six gold medals and two silver medals this week to become the first swimmer to ever win eight medals in a single World Championships while Sjostrom won a gold, two silvers and two bronze medals.
Dressel and Sjostrom also won the swimmers of the meet at the 2017 FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest.
Caeleb Dressel – USA
Dressel became the first swimmer to ever win eight medals in a single World Championships. His biggest highlight of the week was when he broke the world record in the 100 fly in the semifinals on day six to lower Michael Phelps’ 10-year-old record. Dressel also broke American records in the 50 and 100 free as well as the 50 fly. He also led off the mixed 4×100 free relay that broke a world record in the final.
Sjostrom was the most decorated woman swimmer at the Championships, winning five individual medals in total. Australia’s Ariarne Titmus won five medals but had four individuals, winning the gold medal in the 4×200 free relay.
Sjostrom had one gold medal in the 50 fly this week, winning that event for the third time in her career. She became the first woman to win that event three times at the World Championships in the event’s short history. Sjostrom also finished second in the 100 fly and 50 free and picked up bronzes in the 100 and 200 free.
She became the first woman to have won five medals in individual events at a single world championships.
Duncan Scott split 46.14 as he surged past Nathan Adrian in the final metres as Great Britain won the men’s 4x100m medley relay to inflict defeat upon the United States for the first time.
Adrian appeared to be on the verge of victory but Scott swam the second-fastest split in history as Britain won in 3mins 28.10secs – a new European record – to upgrade from the silver medal they won in Budapest in 2017.
Only Jason Lezak has ever gone quicker with his 46.06 split during the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
In contrast, Adrian split 47.60, the third slowest in the entire field as the United States came in second in 3:28.45 with Russia third in 3:28.81.
It was a third gold medal for Adam Peaty after his 50-100m breaststroke double in which he became the first man in history to go inside 57 seconds for the latter.
Luke Greenbank, bronze medallist in the 200m backstroke, swam 53.95 to hand over in seventh to Peaty who split 57.20 to guide the quartet into first.
James Guy then went head to head with Caeleb Dressel, who was looking for his seventh gold medal of the week, the American splitting 49.28 in the fly and handing over to Adrian with a 1.11-sec advantage over the British.
appeared the USA had victory in their sights but that was without reckoning with Scott, who has been in the spotlight in and out of the water this week, the 200m freestyle bronze medallist now standing on top of the podium.
Scott said: “I think when you get to this level, times are not relevant and it’s just down to racing at the end of the day. I got put in a great position, I was diving right in on Adrian’s hip.
“I’ve been there many times before and on the blocks put me in an incredible position and I just have to try and execute a good race plan and no I can’t say I thought I had that split in me but I’m so speechless that I’ve been able to put that race together.”
Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant
The University of Stirling swimmer added: “Build my race down the last 50 and bring my legs in the last. My strongest aspect is bringing it back on the 200 freestyle so stepping down to the 100 I’ve got to try and use my strengths. I took over in a great position and how fortunate we were to be next to the Americans as well who were breaking the race.
“Moved over and got a nice big wave down the first 50 and then I just used the adrenaline to come home. It’s down to the effort of the boys in front of me who put me in that position.
“As Adam said, we are quite a young team – I think he is probably the oldest at 24 – so we have got plenty more years together so this has been a great stepping stone for us and we are looking forward to next year.”
Adrian, who has been undergoing treatment for testicular cancer, said he knew Duncan Scott would be coming.
“I knew he was going to be there. I saw he had a great 200 free, great 200IM but scratched out the 100 free so no-one really knew what he could do. That last 15m – it’s tough, it’s tough. I was trying to be strong, I was trying to hold on but this time I couldn’t do it.”
Peaty added: “I just took it out easy, I knew the Americans would have a little bit of a lead at the takeover.
“I dived in and hit the referees glasses off so that kind of threw me off for the first metre. Then I just got back into my own zone so it’s stuff like that it always going to happen – you never know how close they are going to stand at the edge of the pool.
“Then took it out fairly aggressive. For me the most important thing is I know I have got a bit more in there, a little bit more pace and I think the Olympics will be a different race so I think it’s going to be different and all ready for what comes with a bunch of four lads who are young but gathering experience and yeah I think we are going to smash it.”
Of being in a team, he added: “This is incredible! I thought Jimmy (James Guy) could hold his ground and as soon as Duncan dived in I thought ‘we’re going to get bronze’.
“With 25m to go I was jumping up and down like never before and the last 10 metres he just got his head down and took him out.
“For me, that’s better than Olympic gold and anything else, as when you do it as a team, and the fact the Americans have never been beaten in this event I don’t think, it’s just amazing.”
Ryan Murphy led the team off, a 52.92 leg seeing him hand over in second place. The triple Olympic champion was less than impressed with his effort although the quartet all said defeat would give them greater motivation for Tokyo 2020.
He said: “I had a pretty embarrassing performance. I was the first guy in the water and it kind of put us in a hole from the beginning.
“I thought Andrew did well, Caeleb did well, Nathan did really well. We just didn’t put them in the right spot. When we put him in a position where he is half a body length ahead and Duncan Scott can draft off of him for 75, that’s not the position we need to be in. I need to be better to get us out in the lead so that doesn’t happen at the Olympics.”
Murphy handed over to Andrew Wilson who swam a 58.65 breaststroke leg but was up against the might of Peaty.
“I think all of us are finding places in our swims where we could be better,” he said.
“It was like three tenths difference between us and GB and that was three tenths slower than I was on the mixed medley so I think all of us are finding places where it’s on us. But we just all need to be better and will be next year. It’s frustrating now but fuel for next year.”
It was not a golden end to the meet for Dressel who ended the programme with six gold and two silver medals as eh became the first swimmer to win eight medals at a single world championships.
“I am happy with my performances but I know I can be better and I now I am going to have to be better leading into next year.
“Part of me is very happy, part of me wants to cry that I am done with it. This is a lot of stress: you can see – I’ve got pimples on my face from the stress of the meet, I’m probably losing some hair, it all comes with it.
“Our goal here is just to get our hand on the wall first and swim fast. I am not sitting in my room flipping through my medals, I really don’t care.
“I have one less than 17 – that doesn’t bug me one bit. I should have been better on the relays so we missed out on two relays where we got silver, we are not happy with that as a team. We have to better next year and we will be better, simple as that.”