Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Happy Birthday Maarten van der Weijden !!!

Maarten van der Weijden (NED) 2017 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 2008 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (10km); 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (25km), bronze: (5km); 2006 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (10km)

Born in Haastrecht, Netherlands on March 31, 1981, Maarteen van der Weijden, followed in his older sister Etta’s wake in the pool and open water. As a young boy, he liked challenges and at the age of 11 he swam 100x100m in training. From 1998 to 2000 he became a 12-time Dutch national champion at the 1500m freestyle, 400m freestyle, and 5km open water. Then, in 2001, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and his chances for survival were very small. For the next two years, Maarten had little control over his life and he depended on the medical specialists to guide him through successful chemotherapy treatment and a stem cell transplantation. In 2003 he started to train again and amazingly qualified for the FINA Open Water World Championships in Barcelona. In 2004, he swam across the Ijsselmeer in 4:20.58 hours, breaking the former record by almost 15 minutes to collect 50,000 Euros, which he donated for cancer research. Van der Weijden had his own website named “Maarten van der Weijden zwemt tegen kanker” (Maarten van der Weijden swims against cancer) where he informed his fans about his life and his career. He also collected more money to invest for cancer research. His dream was to become World Champion and over the next few years he trained hard and worked on his tactics. In 2008, he fulfilled this aim when he won the 25km at the World Championships in Seville. He also won a bronze medal in the 5km there and finished fourth at the 10km. This result qualified him for the first 10km open water marathon race at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. There he ended up winning the gold medal on August 21, narrowly edging out David Davies of Great Britain. He thus became the first mens’ Olympic Champion in the 10km open water competition. He announced the end of his professional swimming career during his acceptance speech as Dutch Sportsman of the year in 2008. But that’s not the end of his story.

After writing his own biography, “Better,” in 2009 and a successful career as a finance manager for Unilever, he struck out on his own as an entrepreneur and motivational speaker focusing on healthcare, sports and business. In 2015 he initiated his first “Swim to Fight Cancer” in the cold channel of Den Bosch. It attracted over 500 participants and raised over 500,000 Euros for cancer research. He continues to use swimming to fight cancer, recently swimming the running marathon distance (42km 195m) in the 50m pool of the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium Eindhoven. He has also created a one-man stage show based on his book, “Better.” All one hundred of his shows have been sold out. He has also performed on the TEDx stage in Rotterdam.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

On this day in 1905, Coach Ray Daughters was born......

RAY DAUGHTERS  (USA) 1971 Honor Coach

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1936, 1948 (U.S. Women's Swimming Coach); 1952, 1956, 1964 (Official Swimming Photographer); 1960 (Manager of Men's Swimming Team); Chairman AAU Men's Swimming Committee (1957-1959); Chairman U.S. Men's Olympic Swimming Committee (1960); Coached Washington Athletic Club swimmers to 30 world records, 301 American records, 64 national championships.

Ray Daughters, the late, great coach of the Washington Athletic Club, lived most of his life in Seattle, moving there from Denver when he was ten.  He grew up near water and was the sprint and distance swimming champion of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s.  When the Illinois Athletic Club's record-breaking men's swimming team, coached by Hall of Famer Bill Bachrach, exhibited in Seattle in 1914, Daughters finished a close second to Arthur Raithel, then the national 500 yard freestyle champion.  During World War I, as Chief Petty Officer at the Seattle Naval Training Station, he was in charge of swimming, during which time thousands of men were taught to swim.

Daughters' two most famous swimmers were Hall of Famers Helene Madison and Jack Medica, the USA's top freestylers in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics respectively.  His other Olympic swimmers were Marylou Petty, Olive McKean and Nancy Ramey.  His W.A.C. swimmers over the years held 30 world records, 301 American records and won 64 National Championships.

Daughters started coaching at the Seattle Crystal Pool where he produced Helene Madison and then move d to the Washington Athletic Club when it was built in 1930.  He became Director of Athletics in 1942 and retired in December of 1964.  Internationally, Daughters wore the USA uniform at every Olympics from 1936 through 1964.  He served as Women's swimming coach in Berlin in 1936 and again at London in 1948.

In 1952, 1956, and 1964 at Helsinki, Melbourne and Tokyo, he was official swimming photographer.  In 1960 he was Manager of the men's swimming team at Rome.  During the years 1957-59, he served as Chairman of the AAU Men's Swimming Committee and in 1960 was Chairman of the U.S. Men's Olympic Swimming Committee.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Honor Swim Coach Eddie Reese: The End of an Era

Commentary: Eddie Reese Era Ended On a High Note; His Legacy Measures Far Beyond Title Banners

Just two days after guiding the University of Texas to its 15th NCAA title, legendary coach Eddie Reese announced on Monday that he is retirng as coach of the Longhorns after 43 years at the helm in Austin. The following commentary was written by Swimming World’s Dan D’Addona following Texas’ latest championship march.

Eddie Reese won his first NCAA title as Texas swimming coach 40 years ago. Fittingly, on the 40th anniversary of that premier championship, the Longhorns won again. He led the Longhorns to plenty in between, too, with the 2021 title the 15th for Texas and for Reese in those 43 seasons, who has now led the Longhorns to a title in five different decades.

Fifteen titles is more than any other coach or program in history, which cements Reese’s legacy as the greatest college swimming coach of all time.

But his legacy isn’t necessarily the championships, but the non-championship seasons.

Reese has coached 43 years. In addition to the 15 NCAA titles, his Texas teams have been runnerup 12 times and third place seven times. The Longhorns have been in the top 10 in the nation for a stunning 40 consecutive seasons and have won 41 consecutive conference championships.

That means in 43 seasons, 27 of them have seen a top-two finish and 34 top-three finishes. The Longhorns have won 140 event titles during that span.

It is simply a dynasty.

“Simply put, Eddie Reese is the greatest coach of all time,” Texas’ Carson Foster said. “If it was ever debated before, it is over now. You can’t argue with 15 national championships in five different decades. He and all of our assistants do an incredible job with recruiting, but also developing, and they have created such a culture with the team where there is not a single person who is complacent with anything but a championship, and that is the culture from day one. We don’t accept anything less. Forty years after he won his first, he won his 15th and that is beyond special for all of us and the Texas alum.”

The 2021 season was a special one for many reasons. The Longhorns endured the pandemic virtually unscathed and took back their title after Cal broke their four-peat streak in 2019.

“Every one of them are different because of the makeup of your team and every one of them has to go through different things. These guys have been through the COVID year and that freeze in Austin. There is something special to overcome every year and this group, they went the whole school year with no positive COVID-19 tests,” Eddie Reese said after the meet.

It was also special because all 20 swimmers and all four divers who competed at the championships scored at least one point, meaning the entire team had a hand in the title. It was a meet won by depth as the Longhorns won a diving event, two relays but no individual swimming races, the first time that has happened for a title seam since 2006.

“Something really special about Eddie is he doesn’t really view us as athletes or point scorers. He views us all as human beings and wants what is best for us as human beings, and that is how it has always been. He always cares even during the hard practices. It makes you see the value in yourself and makes everybody want to be the best,” Drew Kibler said. “The culture makes you want to work and where you can take these roads. Eddie has a different way of going about these things and he is just such a phenomenal man.”

And the greatest coach in the history of college swimming.

Happy Birthday Ilsa Konrads !!!

JOHN & ILSA KONRADS  (AUS) 1971 Honor Swimmers

FOR THE RECORD:  WORLD RECORDS: 100m backstroke (stood for 21 years); 150 yd, 200m backstroke (stood for 11 years).

Between January 1958 and February 1960, the Konrads Kids established 37 world records.

John: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1960 gold (1500m freestyle), bronze (400m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: included 200m, furlong (220yd), 400m, 800m, quarter-mile, half-mile freestyle; BRITISH EMPIRE and COMMONWEALTH GAMES: 1958 (3 gold medals).

Ilsa: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1960 4th (400m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: included 800m, 880yd freestyle; BRITISH EMPIRE and COMMONWEALTH GAMES: 1958 (1 gold medal).

John and Ilsa Konrads were born in Riga, Latvia during World War II.  With their parents, they fled to Germany in 1944 where John contracted polio in a refugee camp near Stuttgart.  The family moved to Australia in 1949 and encouraged the children to swim as therapy for John's polio.  When coach Don Talbot took them over, he found two remarkable young swimmers, coach-able and willing to work as no one before them.

Ten years after migrating to Australia, this most remarkable of all brother and sister swimming acts began to break world records as the celebrated Konrads Kids, the Prince and Princess of freestyle swimming.  Thirteen year old Ilsa set the Konrads' first world records in the 800m and 880 yd. freestyle on January 9, 1958 under coach Don Talbot.  Fifteen year old John set the same 800m and half mile records for men two days later, then followed with 200m, furlough, 400m and quarter mile records during the next week.  After this week, the swim world, still in shock from Australian dominance in the 1956 Olympics, wondered how anyone would ever catch up.  During the next two years, between January 1958 and February 1960, the Konrads Kids established 37 world records.

At the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, the Konrads were the first brother-sister act ever to win gold medals, three for John and one for Ilsa.  John Konrads won the 1500m freestyle at the Rome Olympics in 1960 and Ilsa was a disappointing 4th behind Hall of Famers Chris Von Saltza and Dawn Fraser.

The Konrads stay at the top was brief but so brilliant it has never quite been equaled.  They were the first of the Kiddy Corps that has made the world believe in the ability of very young swimmers to work harder than adult athletes had thought possible.  They set multi-world records at an age when most of us are encouraging the mediocrity of our children with "What can you expect -- she's only 13?"  The Konrads and their coach, Don Talbot, didn't know "kids can't swim that fast."

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Happy BIrthday to Coach Charles "Red" Silvia !!!

CHARLES SILVIA (USA) 1976 Honor Contributor

FOR THE RECORD:  U.S. National Collegiate record holder: 300yd individual medley; College All-American; Captain, Springfield College Swim Team; Multi-sports coach: New Hampton School; Wibraham Academy; New Haven YMCA; Springfield College (from 1937); Assistant Coach: 1956 U.S. Olympic Team; Developed 50 college swim coaches; His swimmers set 14 World Records; President, College Swimming Coaches Association of America; President, Board Chairman, ISHOF; Recipient of Collegiate & Scholastic Swimming Trophy; Honoree in Helms (Citizens Savings) Hall of Fame; Author of  Life Saving & Water Safety Today.

Charles "Red" Silvia coached Bill Yorzyk in a 20 yd. pool and brought him from a non-swimmer freshman in college, to a graduate student with Pan-American and Olympic gold medals, 13 World Records in freestyle and butterfly, and US. National AAU Championships in butterfly and individual medley.  Yorzyk won the USA's only 1956 Olympic gold in men's swimming.  In 1973, Davis Hart, another of Sylvia's swimmers, set the record for the English Channel.  In addition to revolutionizing the dolphin-butterfly stroke in the mid-1950s, Sylvia, in the late 40s, was the first to embrace mouth-to-mouth insufflations, the method of choice for artificial respiration.  In 1967 Coach Silvia had 37 of his former pupils as college swim coaches, many more as medical doctors.  He is a prime example of the multiplication factor in education.  He has used swimming as an effective medium for the development of human potential and sent his students out into life with a sense of social responsibility that includes propagating his teaching in every possible environment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Happy Birthday Maureen O'Toole !!!

Maureen O’Toole (USA) 2010 Honor Water Polo Player

She is a six-time World Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year and played on the Women’s U.S. National Team for over 21 years. Between 1978 and 2000, she competed in six World Championships and seven FINA World Cups. Before joining the Women’s National Team, she played California high school and college water polo on the boy’s and men’s teams as there were no school teams for women. At age 39 at the Olympic Games’ debut of women’s water polo during the 2000 Sydney Games, she capped her career with an Olympic silver medal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

As a Salute to Women's History Month, we celebrate Open Water Swimming Pioneer Lynne Cox

LYNNE COX  (USA) 2000 Honor Open Water Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: First crossing of the Catalina Island Channel (1971) 12:36 hrs.; Women’s and men’s record crossing of the English Channel (1972) 9:57 hrs.; Women’s and men’s record crossing of the English Channel (1973) 9:36 hrs., Catalina Island Channel crossing record (1974) 8:48 hrs.; Cook Straits between North and South Islands of New Zealand (1975) 12 hrs., 2 min.;  Straits of Magellan (Chile), Oresund and Skagerrak (Scandinavia) (1976) 1 hr., 2 min.; Aleutian Islands (three channels) 1977; Cape of Good Hope (S. Africa) 1979; Around Joga Shima (Japan) 1980; Across three lakes in New Zealand’s Southern Alps (1983); Twelve difficult “Swims Across America” (1984); “Around the World in 80 Days”, 12 extremely challenging swims totaling 80+ miles (1985); Across the Bering Strait, U.S. to Soviet Union (1987) 2 hr., 6 min.; Across Lake Baikal, Soviet Union (1988); Across the Beagle Channel between Chile and Argentina (1990); Across the Spree River between the newly united German Republics (1990); Lake Titicaca Swim (1992).

Lynne Cox became the best cold water, long distance swimmer the world has ever seen.  Her 5 foot 6 inch, 180-pound frame of a body was at one with the water.  With a body density precisely that of sea water, her 36% body fat (normal is 18% to 25%) gave her neutral buoyancy.  Her energy could be used all for propulsion and not to keep afloat.  Propelling though the most treacherous waters of the globe is what Lynne Cox did best.

When her parents moved the family from New Hampshire to Los Alamitos, California in 1969 so that Lynne and her older brother and two sisters could receive better swim coaching, Hall of Fame coach Don Gambril, at the Phillips 66 Swim Club, took her under his guidance.  What he saw was a large-boned girl with boundless energy and great upper body strength who could slice through the water like a porpoise.  When she was 14 and already tired of “going back and forth in the pool and going nowhere”, Gambril urged her to enter a series of rough water swims near Long Beach.  As a result in 1971, at age 14, she swam the 31-mile Catalina Channel in Southern California with four other friends.  She loved it.  The chill, the chop, the solitude, and the liberation were all exhilarating to Lynne.  “Everything opened up.  It was like going from a cage to freedom.”

For the next two decades, Lynne competed against the elements in swims which took her to all the major bodies of water in the world, many of which had not been crossed before and most of which had not been done by a woman.  Her study of history at the University of California Santa Barbara may have been a catalyst in choosing which swims to pursue.  It became her desire to use her swims to help bring people together, to work toward a more peaceful world.  This realization was sparked during her 1975 swim as the first woman to swim the 10-mile Cook Straits in New Zealand in 12 hours 2-1/2 minutes.  During this difficult swim, the outcry of support from the New Zealand people was all she needed to finish this 50 degree Fahrenheit swim, even when the tides and current had taken her farther away from the starting point after the first five hours of the crossing.

Her most famous swim was in 1987, eleven years after her father had planted the seed in her head. Lynne completed 2.7 miles in the Bering Straits, 350 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska where the water temperature ranges from 38-42 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps the most incredible of cold water swims, her 2 hours, 16 minutes from Little Diomede (USA) to Big Diomede (USSR) astonished the physiologists who were monitoring her swim. It marked one of the coldest swims ever completed.  One can’t get much colder.  After this temperature, the water turns to ice.  It was a swim that brought the United States and Soviet Union together in an exchange of glasnost and perestroika. In Washington, Presidents Reagan and Gorbachov toasted Lynne’s swim saying that she “proved by her courage how closely to each other our peoples live”.  Before this time, at the start of the Cold War, the families of the Diomede Islands had been split and had not been permitted to see one another since 1948.

Lynne is the purist of marathon swimmers.  She does not wear a wet suit in frigid water and does not use a cage in shark infested waters.  Her swims in Iceland’s 40 degree F Lake Myzvtan and Alaska’s 38 degree F Glacier Bay, where the lead boat had to break a path in the one quarter inch ice, were done wearing only a swim suit, cap and goggles.  She wanted to do more than just achieve times and set records.  And she did.  But in the process, she became the fastest person to swim the English Channel (1972 and again in 1973), the first person to swim the Straits of Magellan (Chile) 4-1/2 miles, 42 degree F (1976), Norway to Sweden, 15 miles 44 degree F (1976), three bodies of water in the Aleutian Islands (USA) 8 miles total, 44 degree F (1977) and around the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) 10 miles, 70 degree F which attracted sharks, jellyfish and sea snakes (1978).  Many other swims included Lake Biakal in the Soviet Union (1988), the Beagle Channel of Argentina and Chile (1990) and around the Japanese Island of Joga Shima. In 1994 at the age of 37 years, she swam the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea joining the 15 miles of 80-degree water between Egypt, Israel and Jordan.  She has swum Lake Titicaca in the Andes Mountains, the world’s highest navigable lake.

Lynne works as an author, motivational lecturer, and teaches swimming technique both in the pool and open water.

Happy BIrthday Coach Bill Sweetenham !!!

Bill Sweetenham (AUS) 2018 Honor Coach


Bill Sweetenham grew up in poverty in the rural part of Australia, in a place called Mount Isa, a mining town out in the middle of nowhere. He found refuge from this tough environment and from his father’s strict discipline through participation in sports, especially swimming.

After one serious transgression, the penance demanded by his father was for Bill to teach a fellow miner’s thalidomide child how to swim at the local town pool for free. Bill was 17 and knew nothing about teaching or coaching. From the moment he started working with the boy, he discovered his passion to become a teacher and coach and became totally committed to be the best he could be.

He started coaching at the Mt. Isa community pool and quickly developed a team that ranked third in the country. Recruited to replace Hall of Famer Laurie Lawrence at Carina, a club in Brisbane, he earned a reputation for being a tough and demanding coach - and for developing three of the greatest distance swimmers in history, Hall of Famers Steve Holland, Tracey Wickham and Michelle Ford.

In 1980, Bill was recruited to work at the newly formed Australian Institute of Sport and was named Head Olympic Coach for the 1980 Moscow Games. He was also awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which sent him to the USA for a year to study all aspects of coaching under Hall of Fame greats Nort Thornton, Don Gambril, George Haines and Doc Counsilman.

In 1983, while on a training trip with the Australian team in West Germany, Bill suffered a catastrophic leg injury in a freak road accident. It resulted in major surgery that continues to present him with challenges and hardships to this day. Dealing with this injury, he believes, taught him to be both a better person and a better coach – and he continues to learn from it.

In 1990, after serving as the head swimming coach at the Australian Institute of Sport for ten years and being in charge of many of Australian swimming teams at the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and other events since 1978, Bill found a new challenge in an offer to develop swimming in Hong Kong. Four years later, he was back in Australia as the National Youth Coach. Favored to replace Don Talbot as National Head Coach after the 2000 Sydney Games, he took an offer from British Swimming instead. Britain had been in a downward spiral with its swim program for many years and in Sydney the Brits returned home without a single medal for its swimmers for the first time in history. They wanted Bill Sweetenham as their High Performance Director and he was excited by the challenge.

After eight years on the job, Bill transformed British Swimming. Under his leadership and management, Britain’s swimmers won 18 World Championship titles and produced their best results in the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Olympic Games. He created and implemented an early talent identification and development program that many experts believe is responsible for Britain’s success in the pool today.

Bill Sweetenham stepped down from his role with British Swimming and retired from day-to-day coaching in 2007. During his career he served as head National Team Coach at five Olympic Games, coached 27 medalists at the Olympic Games and World Championships and nine world record holders. He is an accomplished and published author and is a internationally recognized consultant for his strategic planning capabilities in high performance sport and business. When not involved in a coaching education program, he is searching the world for more knowledge and experience, and for the next piece of information that will improve athlete and coaching performance.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Happy Birthday Lynn Burke !!!

LYNNE BURKE (USA) 1978 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1960 gold (100m backstroke; 400m medley relay); WORLD RECORDS: 6; NATIONAL AAU titles: 6 (100m backstroke, 2 relays); AMERICAN RECORDS: 7; Lowered the 100m backstroke World Record four times within three months.

The significant point about Lynn Burke's backstroke World and Olympic Records, according to her coach, George Haines, "is a big chunk she took out of the current world class backstrokers' time, dropping two seconds in the 100m backstroke."  She was the first American woman to win the Olympic 100m backstroke in 28 years.  Lynn burst across the horizon like a flying fish going from virtual obscurity to the best in the world in less than two years, not only defeating all contemporaries, but finally wiping out the oldest record in the books, Hall of Famer Cor Kint's 1939 record that had lasted 21 years.  A New York model, author, business woman, and working mother of three children, Lynn Burke is glamorous proof that a swimmer can set records in more than the water.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Happy Birthday Penny Lee Dean !!!

PENNY DEAN (USA) 1996 Honor Open Water Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1978 Established English Channel crossing record (England to France, 7 hrs. 40 min.); 1979 Professional Marathon Swimming Circuit (Women's World Champion); four Catalina Channel crossings (1976-1977); 12 WORLD RECORDS; Head Coach: U.S. National Long Distance team (1984-1988); Head Women's Swimming and Water Polo Coach: Pomona College since 1979.

When she was ten years old, she came within 400 meters of swimming the length of the Golden Gate Bridge.  But tired and with the water a frigid 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the escort boat an arms reach away, Penny Dean made a decision that would determine the course of her life for the next thirteen years and make Marathon swimming history - she got out.  It was an understandable decision for a ten year old, but once on shore she mistook her mother's look of guilt that she had pushed her daughter too hard and into failure, as a look of disappointment.  She had let pain and fatigue distract her from her goal, and she vowed never to let that happen again.  From that summer day in 1965, Penny Dean embarked on a challenging course that thirteen years later would lead to one of the greatest marathon swims in history.

She had a head start - she had been swimming since the age of 20 months in both San Francisco and Santa Clara - hot beds for swimming in California. She competed in AAU swimming for seventeen years in both pool Nationals and Long Distance Open Water Nationals, winning the Three Mile National Championship in 1971.  As a swimmer for Pomona College, she was a six-time All-American.  By 1976, she swam from the mainland of California to Catalina Island in the overall world record of 7 hours, 15 minutes 55 seconds - 1 and 1/2 hours under the former record.  The next year she set the world record from the island to the mainland on her way to a 50 mile double crossing of the Catalina Channel in 20 hours and 3 minutes.  These swims set the stage for her greatest challenge.

Tennis players have Wimbledon; runners have the Boston Marathon; swimmers have the English Channel.  Penny not only wanted to be amongst the successful eighteen percent of swimmers who actually complete the English Channel, she wanted to break all the records.  The water was 55 degrees, the tides were challenging and the channel is vast to the lone swimmer.  A core of inner toughness kept her swimming, and a remarkable 7 hours, 40 minutes after she left England, her toes scraped against the sand of the French coast with a greeting committee of a few shocked shell hunters.  Her time broke the world record by 1 hour and 5 minutes and was so impressive that it took another sixteen years before Chad Hundeby broke her record in September of 1995.  Penny proved once again that women can swim faster and longer than men in Marathon Swimming.

She continued her long distance swimming career for another three years, winning at Lake St. John, LaTugue, Lakes Memphremagog and Paspebiac in Quebec, and Atlantic City in New Jersey, setting women's world records in most of them. She was Women's World Professional Champion in 1979 accumulating 1,000 points over her next rival.

Penny became a Professor of Education and Head Swimming Coach at Pomona College, but not before serving as the U.S. National Team Coach of Open Water Swimming from 1988 through 1991, Head Coach of U.S. teams to the 1991 Pan Pacific Championships, 1991 World Championships, 1982 and 1990 Windermere Championships, 1990 English Channel Race, 1984 and 1989 Catalina Channel Race and coach of nine solo Catalina Channel crossers.  She was president of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America from 1985 to 1987 and served on the NCAA Swimming Committee.  She has presented numerous international clinics on marathon and open water swimming, written articles for swimming publications and authored "How to Swim a Marathon," with printings in 1985, 1988 and 1992, and "History of the Catalina Swims," revised four times since 1985.

Penny has been a pathfinder in her swimming career.  Studying law, she receives her Ph.D. in 1996.  She stands as the tallest and proudest five-foot-two inch, 125 pound marathon swimmer the world has known.  What the world did not  know was that she swam her way to victory with no anterior artery blood supply to her left arm.  She used the other part of her body for that - her guts.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Happy Birthday Igor Poliansky !!!


FOR THE RECORD: 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m backstroke), bronze (100m backstroke, 4x100 medley relay); FIVE WORLD RECORDS: 3-100m backstroke, 1-200m backstroke, 1-200m backstroke (S.C.); 1985 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS:gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke); 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke), bronze (4x100m medley relay); 1986 GOODWILL GAMES: gold (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke); 1987 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (200m backstroke).

Igor Poliansky was the premier backstroke swimmer following the Olympic Games of 1984 when USA’s Rick Carey won both the 100m and 200m backstrokes in Los Angeles. Between 1984 and 1989 Poliansky won every 100m and 200m backstroke event in international competition in which he competed, except one - the 100m at the 1987 European Championships in Strasburg, Austria, where he placed second to teammate Sergei Zabolotnov.

Poliansky emerged as the world backstroke leader at the 1985 European Championships in Sofia, beating Dirk Richter (GDR) and Zabolotnov (URS), respectively, to win gold medals in both the 100m and 200m events. Poliansky broke the 200m backstroke world record in 1985 at Erfurt, with a time of 1:58.14, a record that stood for over six years until Spain’s Martin Zubero broke it using the no-touch backstroke turn adopted in competition that year.

In 1986, Igor won both backstroke events at the Goodwill Games and the World Championships at Madrid, edging out his German Democratic Republic opponents. In 1988 at Tallinn, he broke Rick Carey’s 4 1/2-year-old 100m backstroke world record and repeated it again two more times. That same year in Bonn, he set the 200m backstroke short course world record for a total of five world records in his career.

Of the 200m race, Igor said, “It’s a very long distance and you have to concentrate very hard in order to pace yourself correctly. This gold medal is the best prize for me, but the 100 is my favorite race.”

At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Poliansky surprised everyone by winning the 200m backstroke ahead of Frank Baltrusch (GDR) and Paul Kingsman (NZL), his arch rivals from the previous four years. He won the bronze medal in the 100m backstroke behind  Daichi Suzuki (JPN) and David Berkoff (USA) by less than .2 seconds.

Happy Birthday Sandy Neilson !!!

SANDRA NEILSON  (USA) 1986 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1972 gold (100m freestyle; 2 relays); PAN AMERICAN GAMES: 1971 gold (100m freestyle, relay), silver (relay); WORLD RECORDS: 3 (relays); AMERICAN RECORD: 4 (100m freestyle; 3 relays); AAU NATIONALS: (100yd freestyle; 1 relay); AIAW CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1977 (50yd, 100yd freestyle).

Matt Mann used to say, "So you won, but who'd you beat?"  He could never say this to Sandra Neilson, a triple gold medal winner in the 1972 Munich Olympics.  In order to win the 100 Meter Freestyle, Sandy had to beat the favorites: the world's top woman swimmer Shane Gould (Australia) and the top American woman swimmer Shirley Babashoff.  By winning the open 100, Neilson also got to anchor both American relays to World Records and thus three gold medals when she was not supposed to win any.  Such was the Olympic dream for a 16 year old high school sophomore.

Ironically, Sandra was repeatedly passed over for induction in the International Swimming Hall of Fame because of the four year retirement rule, until, in August 1984, her coach, Texas sports psychologist Keith Bell, protested that she had actually retired for nine years.  Sandy fully retired shortly after her 1972 Olympic triumph but decided to try Masters (Old Folks) Swimming nine years later in 1981.  When she won "all" in the 25-29 age group she decided to try big time senior swimming again at 28 and is already more than a second under her 1972 Olympic Record time of 58.59.  "I want to swim as fast as I can for as long as I can," says Neilson, who has only seemed to win the big ones in her long career.  She has already changed the swimming world's thinking on what is old . . . move over Phil Niekro, Pete Rose, Walter Spence, and Arne Borg!

Happy Birthday Jane Asher !!!

Jane Asher 2006 Honor Masters Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD (SWIMMER): World Points - 1859, Masters Pre-1986 points – 0, Total Points – 1859; Since 1983, she has competed in four age groups (55-59 thru 70-74); 75 FINA MASTERS WORLD RECORDS; 30 FINA MASTERS WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS; FIRST MASTERS SWIMMER TO HOLD ALL THE WORLD FREESTYLE RECORDS IN HER AGE GROUP – short course meters and long course meters – simultaneously.

Jane Asher was born in ‘Nkana, Northern Rhodesia in 1931, but grew up in South Africa, loving the water and having swimming access anytime, anywhere. At the age of 22, in 1953, she moved to Britain to take a post-graduate diploma in personnel management at Manchester University. She swam on the university swim team and realized the swimming advantage she had had as a child living in South Africa. The children of Britain did not have the same access to water privileges Jane had, as during World War II and shortly before her arrival, Britain’s beaches were covered with barbed wire, and pool swimming time was at a premium. Jane started to work as a teacher and coach of school children in her area, beginning with the very basics of the sport.

By 1980, she had set up her own private team. While parents waited for their children during training sessions, Jane thought they could spend their time better in the water than on poolside. Thus began the nucleus of the first Masters swim club of the Amateur Swimming Association (A.S.A.) of Great Britain.

Jane became the catalyst and organized the setting up of the East Anglian Swallow Tail (E.A.S.T.) Club for Masters. Many of the swimmers not only were coached by Jane in this new club, they had been coached by her years before in high school.

In 1992, she and a few E.A.S.T. members successfully ran a seminar specifically for Masters. She started a training camp in the French Alps, maybe the first for Masters at high altitude.

Since 1986, as a world-class Masters swimmer, she has set 75 FINA Masters World Records in the freestyle, I.M., backstroke and sprint butterfly events in the 55-59 through 70-74 age groups. She has won gold medals 30 times at FINA Masters World Championships, 36 at Masters European Championships, 6 at Masters Pan Pacifics, and 95 at British Masters National Championships. She has set 76 Masters European Championship records and 117 British Masters national records. She has gold medals at the National Championships of Britain, Scotland, Wales, France, and Holland. When she turned 70 in 2001, she traveled Britain and Europe to try to swim every long and short course event available. The results – she broke all the British records and a whole lot of World and European records too. Even after total hip replacement in 2002, her times continue to drop.

Friday, March 19, 2021

In honor of Women's History Month, Hilda James: One of the great early female pioneers and feminists!

Hilda James (GBR) 2016 Honor Pioneer Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1920 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver (4x100m freestyle); SEVEN WORLD RECORDS: two (300yd freestyle), two (150yd freestyle), one (440yd freestyle), one (400m freestyle), two (220yd freestyle), three (300m freestyle); 29 ENGLISH RECORDS: four (300yd freestyle), one (440yd freestyle), one (500yd freestyle), four (220yd freestyle), four (100yd freestyle), four (150yd freestyle), two (440yd freestyle), two (500yd freestyle), one (440m freestyle), one (1750yd freestyle), one (880yd freestyle), one (1000yd freestyle); EIGHT U.K. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: four (220yd freestyle), one (100yd freestyle), two (Thames Long Distance from Kew Putney five miles 50yd), one (440yd freestyle); FOUR SCOTTISH RECORDS: one (220yd freestyle), two (200yd freestyle), one (300yd freestyle), one (400m freestyle); FOUR OTHER MEET RESULTS: gold (300yd individual medley), gold (220yd freestyle), gold (110yd breaststroke), one River Seine 8k Race.

To avoid attending Church of England religious education classes, which conflicted with her parents religious beliefs, this 11-year old Liverpudlian was assigned to swimming classes at the Garston Baths.

Five years later, Hilda James was Great Britain’s best female swimmer and left for the 1920 Olympic Games with high expectations. Unfortunately in Amsterdam, the USA women completely dominated, sweeping the gold, silver and bronze medals in the 100m and 300m freestyle, the only individual swimming events for women at the 1920 Games. And while the British did win silver medals in the 4x100m relay, they finished a full 30 seconds behind the Americans. The following day Hilda cheekily asked the American coach, Lou de B. Handley, to teach her the American Crawl.

In 1922, Hilda was invited by her American friends to visit the USA for the summer racing season. While she was still behind the American stars Helen Wainwright and Gertrude Ederle, she was closing the gap.

By 1924, Hilda held every British and European freestyle record from 100 meters to the mile, and a handful of world records as well. She easily made the 1924 Olympic team, and it was widely believed that she would return from Paris with a handful of medals. When Hilda’s mother insisted she accompany her daughter as chaperone, and the British Olympic Committee refused, Hilda’s mother refused to let her go. Unfortunately, Hilda was not yet 21, was under the care of her parents - and had to obey.

Hilda turned 21 shortly after the Olympic Games, gained her independence, and took a job with the Cunard Shipping Company, traveling the world as a celebrity spokesperson, at a time when women were just starting to gain their freedom.

We will never know how Hilda would have fared in the 1924 Olympic Games, but she was a trailblazer and one of Europe’s first female sports superstars who inspired future generations of girls to follow in her wake.

From Hilda's grandson: Ian Hugh McAllister:

My Grandmother Hilda James officially opened the pool in 1925. As the premiere swimming star of the era she was also invited to participate in the opening gala but declined to swim in the races, substituting a demonstration of trick and fancy swimming instead. What the audience didn't know was that she had already signed as a professional with Cunard, and was due to become the first celebrity crew member aboard Carinthia, the very first purpose-built cruise liner. Although not officially on the Cunard payroll until the following week, she was not exactly sure when they would start paying her, and dared not compete in case the press found out she was no longer an amateur. It was a poignant moment for Hilda, her last ever appearance as an amateur following a meteoric nine year career. During that time she held an Olympic silver medal, broke seven World Records, and actually introduced the crawl stroke to the UK.
The whole story is told in her biography "Lost Olympics" which was published last year on Amazon and for Kindle download. Please visit the Lost Olympics facebook page for a lot more information, including my various TV and radio interviews etc. Hilda has recently been nominated for induction to The International Swimming Hall of Fame.
When the pool gets rebuilt, can I come and open it again for you, or at least be at the opening? (although I am no swimmer!)

Happy BIrthday to Honor Swimmer Jenny Fletcher, who was born in 1890....

JENNIE FLETCHER  (GBR) 1971 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1912 gold (4x100m freestyle relay), bronze (100m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: 100yd freestyle (held for 7 years; broke her own record 11 times); BRITISH CHAMPION: 1906 through 1912.

In the modern Olympic period beginning with the 1896 Games, the first great woman swimmer was Jennie Fletcher of England.  Miss Fletcher was born in 1890 in Leichester, the midland's city that also produced Hall of Famers Matthew Webb, John Jarvis and Henry Taylor.  It is ironic that this inland city has turned out the four greatest swimmers in the island country that was the cradle of organized swimming.  The public baths in which Jarvis, Taylor and Fletcher worked out in Leichester are still in use now, 75 years later.

The first Olympics to advertise women's swimming competition were the London Games in 1908.

Jennie, at 18, was at the peak of her career, but the women's events were cancelled due to the lack of women competitors.  She did get to compete in the 1912 Games in Stockholm at the end of her career.  She was beaten in the 100 meter freestyle by another Hall of Famer, Australia's Fanny Durack but she won her gold medal anchoring Great Britain's 4x100 "Team race" as the freestyle relay was called in those days.

"The crowning moment of my career," Jennie Fletcher said many years later, "was when King Gustav of Sweden placed the classic laurel wreath on my head, put the gold medal round my neck and said, 'well done, England'."  This laurel wreath is now on display at the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Interviewed after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and just before her death at 78 in Canada, Miss Fletcher was asked to compare the athletes of the present and those 60 years earlier.  "We did not have the time or the training,"  she said.  "We swam only after working hours and they were 12 hour days and 6 day weeks."

Among trudgeon-stroking women training after a 60 hour work week, there were none better than Jennie Fletcher.  She held the 100 yard freestyle World Record for seven undefeated years and was British champion from 1906 through 1912.  During a three year period, she broke her own world record eleven times.

Coached by the great Jack Jarvis and chaperoned by his wife, Jennie's parents (she was one of eleven children) turned down an offer for her to turn professional at 17 and tour with the world famous Annette Kellerman.  While Annette was startling the public with her daring one-piece silk suit styled with long sleeves and legs, Jennie had been wearing a shorter sleeveless knee length version for years.  "We were told bathing suits were shocking and indecent and even when entering competition, we were covered with a floor length cloak until we entered the water.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Aquatic Complex Dive Well Updates - March 13, 2021

The 27M dive tower pile cap was poured on February 26. Planning a trip next week to Gate Precast in Kissimmee to see the last panels cast before the tower is erected. 👏🏻 Thank you to our design builder Hensel Phelps Construction Company. 👷🏼‍♂️👷🏽🧰🪜

We have the best construction crew ever !

Measurements and calculations are performed by two people for quality control.

Hard at Work !!!!


Hensel Phelps Field Engineer checking calculations.

Putting everything in its place !

Oscar and Chala with the HP craft team down inside the rebar cage checking the details.

Soon to be the GREATEST Dive Well in the WORLD!

Moving right along.........