Friday, April 30, 2021

Happy Birthday Don Schollander


DON SCHOLLANDER (USA) 1965 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1964 gold (100m, 400m freestyle; 4x100m, 4x200m freestyle relay); 1968 gold (4x200m freestyle relay), silver (200m freestyle); First swimmer in history to win 4 gold medals at one Olympics; WORLD RECORDS: 200yd, 200m freestyle; U.S. NATIONAL RECORDS: freestyle; World Athlete of the Year, 1964.

Nineteen year old Don Schollander is the world's most honored active swimmer.  No swimmer in any year has received the honor that came to Schollander in 1964. His selection as top athlete at the 1964 Olympics, plus his award as U. S. and World Athlete of the Year are proof that swimming has come of age and is long overdue on having its own Hall of Fame.

Don received 138 first-place votes and 459 points compared to 14 firsts and 134 points for runner-up Johnny Unitas.  No swimmer had previously won the pool in its 34 year history and no athlete in any sport has won it by such an overwhelming margin.

Justification for Schollander's overwhelming A.P. vote and for his selection to the first group honored in the new Swimming Hall of Fame is his record of 4 gold medals, 4 Olympic and 3 world records in his four Olympic freestyle swimming events.  No other swimmer has ever done so well in the Olympic Games.

Don was the first man in the world to break 2 minutes for the 200 meter freestyle, on July 7, 1963; but his most amazing performance was his 1:41.7 for 200 yards last April.  Try to imagine a man with such great talent that he can race and beat a four man relay team, not just any four man relay, but a world record relay team.  This is what Don Schollander did at Yale, give or take 50 years.  His 1:41.7, 200 yd. freestyle time at the 1965 Indoor U. S. Nationals in April was 7/10 seconds faster than the world record set by Yale's 200 yd. freestyle relay team in 1917.  It is a dramatic illustration of the improvement in swimming times, training and techniques in less than 50 years.

In preparing for the 1964 Olympic Trials and Games, Don's coach, George Haines, (he has had several great coaches in his young career), felt he could win any freestyle event for which he trained. The middle distances are his forte but Haines felt it would be difficult and dangerous, if not foolhardy , to prime Don for both the 100 meter sprint and 1500 meter distance races at the same time. The coach, showing complete confidence in his swimmer plus a flare for the dramatic, and a rise to the challenge, picked the 100.  Although Don is not a sprinter, he has an almost perfect stroke and the 100 meter distance was long enough for this good stroking to pay off in a come-from-behind victory.  Certainly it proved a point for good swimming. Don owned the 400 meter race, perhaps his best distance, and swam on two of the U.S.A.'s three gold medal world record breaking relays, something he might not have been able to do had he primed for the 1500.  All signs were "go" and all gambles paid off.  No swimmer before Schollander has ever won four gold medals in one Olympics, yet Don might have won five had he been on still another relay.  On the other hand, 1964 was the first Olympics that offered three relays and only the second Olympics offering more than one men's relay.  Immortality is still a combination of timing and talent.

There are now more races for more and faster swimmers in the booming sport of swimming than ever before.  This, just as Schollander's early selection for the Swimming Hall of Fame, is a sign of the times in this fastest-growing Olympic sport.

Happy Birthday Charlotte Davis !!!

CHARLOTTE DAVIS (USA) 2014 Honor Coach

FOR THE RECORD: 1984 OLYMPIC GAMES: Head Coach; 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: Assistant Coach and Team Leader; 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: Assistant Coach and Team Leader; 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: National Team Director and Coach of two swimmers winning two Olympic gold and one Olympic Silver medal; National Team Director and Assistant Coach of 1991, 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1991, 1993, 1995 WORLD CUP: National Team Director and Assistant Coach; 1983, 1987, PAN AMERICAN GAMES: Head Coach 1995 PAN AM GAMES: National Team Director and Assistant Coach.

She began her love of swimming at age three. At 11, her older sisters taught her “water ballet” and she was immediately hooked. She loved the music, the creativity, the artistry and best of all, swimming upside down! She then discovered the Washington Athletic Club Synchronized Swimming Team, where she competed through high school. After high school, she moved and competed with the reigning National Champion, Santa Clara Aquamaids. It was with the Aquamaids, she became a National Team champion in 1970.

In 1971, Charlotte moved back to Seattle and formed her own synchronized swimming team. After a few years of coaching, a nine year-old swimmer who could barely swim the length of the pool, caught Charlotte’s eye. That little girl’s name was Tracie Ruiz. Soon after, another little girl, Candie Costie, stood out and decided she wanted to swim duet with Tracie.

Under Charlotte’s guidance, Tracie and Candy rose to the top very quickly, winning the Junior National Duet title at the age of 16. Five years later, in 1982, when the IOC announced the inclusion of the duet on the program for the 1984 Olympic Games, Charlotte and the girls made a pact to work hard and earn the right to represent the United States in Los Angeles. Their hard work and dedication paid off as Charlotte was named head Olympic coach and the girls went on to win the gold medal for the USA; because of the Soviet boycott, the IOC added the solo competition at the last minute. Tracie Ruiz won the gold medal in that event as well.

Charlotte Davis was instrumental in the formation of the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Inc. program that began when the corporation was formed in 1979. She was hired as the organization’s first full-time National Team coach in 1984 and in 1992 was named National Team Director, a position she held until her retirement in 2000. During her tenure, the USA was the dominant force in international synchronized swimming. In addition to the gold medals in 1984 she coached the Josephson twins, Karen and Sarah, to the Olympic duet silver medal in 1988 and Tracie Ruiz to the gold in solo. In 1992 the Josephsons won the duet, while Kristen Babb won the solo gold in Barcelona. As the National Team Director and assistant Olympic coach in 1996, Charlotte also played a major role in the USA’s “perfect ten” performance in Atlanta. It was the first Olympic gold medal awarded for the team event in Olympic history.

Charlotte Davis shared her expertise by giving clinics around the world helping to make synchronized swimming one of the marquee FINA events.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

American Breaststroker Brendan Hansen Heading For International Swimming Hall of Fame Class of 2021

Brendan Hansen is a six-time Olympic medalist, and also a former world record-holder in both the 100 and 200m breaststroke events (long course).


Brendan Hansen post-race Photo Courtesy: Brendan Hansen

He has won a total of 25 medals in major international competition; 18 gold, four silver, and three bronze – spanning the Olympic Games, the World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships. Hansen swam for ISHOF Coach Eddie Reese at the University of Texas, 2001-2005, where he was a 16-time All-American and won 14 NCAA National Championships.

Brendan Hansen and Will Licon

Brendan Hansen and Will Licon at the 2016 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta. Photo Courtesy: NCAA

After his third Olympiad, at the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Games, Hansen decided that it would be his final meet, retiring from the sport of swimming.

Brendan Hansen and Sean Hansen

Brendan Hansen with older brother Sean Photo Courtesy: Brendan Hansen

Come and meet Hansen in person and hear his incredible life story at the ISHOF Induction dinner on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Become an ISHOF Legacy Member and attend the ISHOF Induction Dinner for FREE. Can’t attend the event? Please consider donating to ISHOF, support Hansen and our other inspirational Honorees.

More about Brendan Hansen:

Hansen married college girlfriend and former swimmer, Martha Gueleke, and they have three little girls.  They continue to reside in Austin and he currently works for USA Swimming as the Director of Team Services.

About the International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Weekend:

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Induction Ceremony is shaping up to be a star-studded weekend with ISHOF Honoree and Sullivan Award Winner, Debbie Meyer, and double Olympic gold-medalist and everyone’s favorite Olympic swimming broadcaster, Rowdy Gaines acting as co-emcees and hosts of the induction with multiple events spread out over two days in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Make your plans now to attend the weekend of October 8-9, 2021!  ISHOF Members can purchase the Complete Weekend Package (see below) and save! (Get info on membership here.) Can’t attend the event? Donate to ISHOF to support our honorees.

This year’s International Swimming Hall of Fame Honorees include:

In addition to the Class of 2020, two Honorees from the Class of 2019, who were unable to attend last year, will be present to be inducted. 

Get more information about this year’s induction class here and more information about Otylia Jedrzejczak and Li Ting.


The Induction Weekend Schedule

Friday, October 8, 2021

Paragon & ISHOF Awards Night

  • 5:30 pm Cocktails
  • 6:30 pm ISHOF and Paragon Awards

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Honoree Induction Day Luncheon – Meet Rowdy Gaines and go on a behind the scenes tour of the Aquatic Complex construction

  • 12-1:30 pm Luncheon

Official 56th Annual International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner

  • 5:30 pm VIP Reception
  • 6:30 –10:00 pm Induction Ceremony & Dinner

Ticket Information

  • October 8-9th Complete Weekend Package (Includes Paragon/ISHOF Awards Night, Saturday Luncheon, and Induction Ceremony)

ISHOF Members $350

ISHOF Non-Members $425 BEST PRICE!!

  • October 8th Paragon Awards and ISHOF Awards Night (Hors D’oeuvres and Open Bar) 5:30 pm

ISHOF Members $75

ISHOF Non-Members $100

  • October 9th Saturday Luncheon 12:00-1:30 pm

ISHOF Members $35

ISHOF Non-Members $50

  • October 9th Induction Ceremony and Dinner 5:30 pm

ISHOF Members $275

ISHOF Non-Members $300

10 Person Table $3,500 and $5,000 (Prime location) options

*See all ticket options here.



Host Hotel: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa

Upscale retreat with private beach access, two pools, four restaurants, full service spa and oceanside bar. Location of the Saturday evening induction ceremony. ¼ mile south of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

3030 Holiday Drive, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 525-4000

Special ISHOF Guest Rate of $259 per night

Book your group rate for International Swimming Hall of Fame



Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach

440 Seabreeze Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 524-8733

Special ISHOF Guest Rate of $169 per night

Honoree Ceremony October 9, 2021
Start Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2021
End Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Last Day to Book: Friday, September 15, 2021

Book your group rate for Honoree Ceremony October 2021

Questions: contact Meg Keller-Marvin at or 570-594-4367

On this day in 1912, Simeon Boychenko was born........

Simeon Boychenko (RUS) 2016 Honor Pioneer Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1936 unofficial World Record: 100m breaststroke using the butterfly arm stroke

Simeon Boychenko was a real-life sports idol to the Russian people in the pre-World War II era. Some thought he might become as famous as the American superstar, “Tarzan,” Johnny Weissmuller, but Simeon Boychenko had his own story to write. He was born in 1912 and grew up in the small village of Marievka in the Ukraine, on the Ingul River, where he spent a lot of time swimming as a child.

As Boychenko grew older, he went into the service, where swimming was a must and everyone was impressed with his abilities in the water. At the start of the Soviet Union, all things that were seen as tools of capitalism were renounced; including competitive sports. By the early 1930s, the Soviet Union began to see sport as a means to display Soviet power to the world, as well as to their own people. Within a short time, Boychenko was unbeatable in the Red Fleet and in the summer of 1934, he became the winner of the Soviet Army’s Championship. In 1935, he was transferred to Moscow to continue his military service and it was there that he joined his first real team and got his first real coach.

Back in the 1930’s, an acceptable variant of the classic breaststroke was to swim using an above water butterfly arm stroke. This was how Boychenko swam and leading up to the Berlin Olympic Games, his times were seconds faster in both the 100 and 200-meter breaststroke than the listed world records. Since the Soviet Union refused to join the International Olympic Committee, Boychenko’s records were never recognized by FINA - but that didn’t matter to the Soviets. In Moscow, Boychenko was feted like a national hero and Joseph Stalin held him up as an example to young Soviets: “A former Black Sea sailor,” he said, “comrade Boychenko became an unsurpassed swimmer of world-class. Follow example of Boychenko! Break records in the water!”

At the peak of his sporting career in 1941, Boychenko’s time of 1:05.4 in 100-meter was almost two seconds faster than the FINA world record of 1:07.3, set by America’s Dick Hough. In the 200, his time of 2:29.8 was more than seven seconds faster than Jack Kasley’s listed world record of 2:37.2.

During the war, instead of being sent to the front, he, like American swimming star Adolph Kiefer, was commissioned to train and prepare thousands of Soviet soldiers to be strong, able bodied swimmers.

After the war ended, Simeon Boychenko was accused of impartial comments against Stalin’s son, Vasily, and having criminal relations with white Russian emigrants and bourgeois. He was sentenced to a ten year detention in Siberia, but he never lost his love of swimming. As soon as he was released he went back to his hometown and took a swim in his beloved Ingul River, to try and wash off the years of torture and humiliation.

A few years after Stalin’s death, Simeon returned to the pool in Moscow where he worked as both a coach and referee.

Because of politics, Simeon Boychenko, the “King of the Butterfly,” never got to swim against the Americans or in the Olympic Games, but with this honor he finally receives the international recognition he rightfully deserves.

April 27, Happy Birthday Hilda James !!!

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.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Passages: Olympic Golden Boy John Konrads Remembered as “Mr Unbeatable” As Swimming Loses Freestyle Great

Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer John Konrads has been described as “Mr Unbeatable” as Australian swimming remembers one of its greatest ever champions, following his death on the Sunshine Coast yesterday.


WORLD RECORD SMILE: John Koinrads will be remembered as one of Australian swimming’s greats. Photo Courtesy: Australian Olympic Committee.

Konrads, the 1960 Olympic champion in the 1500m freestyle, and a prolific world record holder, passed away in Noosa Hospital after a long illness. He was 78.

Along with sister Ilsa Konrads, herself a star-studded teenage world beater, Olympian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, together they became known as the “Konrads kids” after legendary coach Don Talbot discovered them at Revesby Primary School in 1952.

Gary Winram, a team mate of Konrads from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, where Konrads at just 13 was selected as an emergency (for experience) and from the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, described the Latvian-born migrant boy as one of the greatest competitors he ever raced against.

Konrads left his mark on Cardiff, winning three gold medals and Winram experienced first hand just how powerful he was.

At just 16 years of age, Konrads would beat a 21-year-old Winram in the 440 yards and 1650 yards freestyle, where Konrads broke the Games record by over a minute in the heat and by another ten seconds in the final.

Winram, also an Australian champion surf swimmer and North Bondi lifesaver, finished second to Konrads over the 1650 and third over the 440 yards.

Konrads would go on to join Gary Chapman, Brian Wilkinson and John Devitt to add a third gold as the Australians beat Scotland and Canada in the 4×220 yards freestyle relay by 20 seconds in a new Games record time.

Two years later in Rome, Konrads would win Olympic gold in the prestigious 1500m freestyle – beating the legendary Murray Rose, the defending champion and his hero, to become one of five individual gold medallists from 1960, along with Devitt and Dawn Fraser (in their respective 100m freestyles), David Theile (100m backstroke) and Rose (400m freestyle).

“At his best John was unbeatable and so focused. In 1958 as a 16-year-old he was very mature and very focused on what he was doing, no nerves what so ever, he just dived in and that was that, no one in the world could catch him in those days, no one. He was a helluva competitor,” said Winram, as he remembered his former team mate.

“John and I became very close at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and afterwards when we toured together on our way home through Japan and Hong Kong where we really got to know each other very well.

“He was an amazing swimmer and a great competitor who set 26 world records who was so well known back in the hey day of swimming – it was the golden era of swimming in Australia.

Don Talbot and swimmerrs Allen Kasble Ilsa and John Konrads

DON’S PARTY: Coach Don Talbot welcomes  Australian medley champion Alan Kable (left) John (right) and Ilsa Konrads (centre) to his squad. Photo Courtesy: Swimming NSW.

“It was exciting to be part of it and John and his sister Ilsa were very much among the faces of the sport – with their photos and stories on the front pages of newspapers and magazines.

“John idolised his coach Don Talbot and Don idolised him…it was a two-way street and I have to say it is a very sad day for swimming to see the passing of John Konrads.”

Swimming Australia President, Kieren Perkins, like Konrads, a 1500m freestyle great also remembered Konrads as a dominant force in Australian swimming scene during the ‘50s and ‘60s.

“Firstly, on behalf of Swimming Australia I’d like to send my condolences to John’s family, friends and loved ones – it’s a terribly sad time,” Perkins said.

“John’s story is quite amazing, it’s one of resilience and perseverance. To arrive in Australia as a young boy from Latvia who couldn’t swim, to then attend an Olympic Games as a 14-year-old only a few years later is remarkable.

Kieren Perkins 1500m freestyle 1992 Barcelona

SPANISH GOLD: Kieren Perkins joins the 1500m gold medal club in Barcelona in 1992. Photo Courtesy: by: Russell McPhedran (Hanson Media Collection)

“During his peak in the 1950s and ’60s John dominated the Australian swimming scene and achieved sensational feats in the distance freestyle events. The 1500m race obviously holds a very special place in my heart and I was lucky to have role models and mentors like John shine a light on this event for Australia – his feats helped cement it as an iconic event for our country at every Olympics.”

Australian Olympic president John Coates paid tribute, saying: “John Konrads also devoted himself to the Olympic movement with significant contributions for Brisbane’s bid for the 1992 Games, Melbourne’s bid for 1996 and ultimately Sydney’s successful bid for 2000.

“Once an Olympian, always an Olympian. That was John Konrads. My sincere condolences to John’s wife Mikki, sister Ilsa and the entire Konrads family,”

And Olympic historian, the late Harry Gordon reflected on the decision to select Konrads as an emergency on the 1956 Olympic Team, just four months before his 14th birthday, when he wrote: “The selection of John Konrads was in fact a fine example of enlightened extravagance. From the start it was known that he would not be required to swim. Several legs would have to break for that to happen. His task was to absorb, to hang around with heroes, to be an investment for the future – and he obliged in a wide-eyed kind of way.”

Konrads himself would also reflect on this many years later, saying: “The excitement was fantastic. Taking delivery of the Olympic tracksuit was close to the biggest event of my life. And just to be on the same team as people like Dawn Fraser and Jon Henricks! I remember trying to talk Latvian to a huge, 7ft 4in guy on the Soviet basketball team. And it was good blooding. Olympics can be overpowering, and I had this great chance to be inside them, at a very impressionable age. I watched Murray Rose win gold medals, and I began to target myself for Rome.”

Konrads was born in Riga, Latvia on May 21, 1942, when that city was under German occupation. In 1944, with the end of World War II still a year away his parents accepted a German invitation to move out and after staying in a series of homeless camps in west Germany, the family eventually accepted another offer to move to Australia and finally settling in Uranquinty, a railway village south of Wagga where John’s father, a dental technician who worked as a laborer, encouraged his children to swim mainly because nearby dams, rivers, creeks and rivers represented a hazard.

But it was the move to Sydney where the Konrads kids, John and sister Ilsa would attend Revesby Public School and in 1952 John, aged 10,  met a young student teacher called Don Talbot – himself only 19.

Talbot would eventually ask John to join him in a swimming squad where he was the assistant coach to the great Frank Guthrie, and in 1953 Ilsa, then nine-years-old, joined up as well, the siblings powering to become instant teenage success stories under Talbot’s tutelage.

Ilsa also won Commonwealth Games gold in the 440 yards freestyle in Cardiff in 1958 beating 1956 Olympic champions Dawn Fraser and Lorraine Crapp, in a stunning trifecta as Australia and the “Konrads kids” scooped the pool.


John Konrads with Hayley Lewis

WELC OME BACK: John Konrads and Brian Wilkinson (obscured) welcomes Hayley Lewis onto the 2000 Olympic team.Photo Courtesy: Hanson Media.

Their International Swimming Hall Of Fame citation of 1971 read: Thirteen year old Ilsa set the Konrads’ first world records in the 800m and 880yd. 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, furlong (220 yards), 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.”

Eighteen swimmers had been named among Australia’s 50 most distinguished Olympians by Harry Gordon and Konrads was right amongst them.

The 18 swimmers are: Frank Beaurepaire (1908, 1920, 1924), Andrew “Boy” Charlton (1924, 1928), Lorraine Crapp (1956, 1960), John Devitt (1956, 1960), Sarah “Fanny” Durack (1912), Dawn Fraser (1956, 1960, 1964), Shane Gould (1972), Grant Hackett (2000, 2004), Jodie Henry (2004), John Konrads (1956, 1960, 1964), Freddie Lane (1900), Susie O’Neill (1992, 1996, 2000), Kieren Perkins (1992, 1996, 2000), Murray Rose (1956, 1960), David Theile (1956, 1960), Petria Thomas (1996, 2000, 2004), Ian Thorpe (2000, 2004) and Mike Wenden (1968).

And in a sad week for swimming in Australia, 1952 Olympian, Rex Aubrey also passed away last week aged 86.

In 1954, Aubrey competed at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games and earned a bronze medal in the 110-yard freestyle and a gold medal as a member of Australia’s 880-yard freestyle relay. Following his competitive career, Aubrey served in several Athletic Director positions, including at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Happy Birthday Donna deVarona !!!

DONNA deVARONA (USA) 1969 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1960 (participant); 1964 gold (400m individual medley, 4x100m freestyle relay), 5th (100m butterfly); WORLD RECORDS: 8 long course events; AMERICAN RECORDS: 10 short course events (she broke and re-broke her World and  American records in these events many times); NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 37 individual titles in backstroke, butterfly and freestyle (including 18 gold medals and 3 national high point awards); AWARDS (1964): America's Outstanding Woman Athlete, Outstanding American Female Swimmer, San Francisco's Outstanding Woman of the Year, Mademoiselle Award, National Academy of Sports Award, and others.

What Eleanor Holm and Esther Williams were to the "Aquacades" 20 years earlier, Donna deVarona was to swimming in the 1960s.  Her glamour and showmanship seen on television, in swimsuit ads, and as an after-dinner speaker are a popular reflection of a swimming record second to none in her time.

Miss deVarona won 37 individual national championship medals, including 18 golds and three national high point awards.  She held world records in 8 long course events and American records in 10 short course events, which would have been world records if FINA still recognized 25 yard pool times as they did until 1957.  Most of Donna's world and American records were broken and re-broken numerous times by Donna herself, so she actually held many times more records than the 18 events she held them in.

Her versatility is reflected in her absolute dominance of the tough four stroke Individual Medley, often thought of in tract terms as "the decathlon of swimming."  She further won national titles and set world fastest times in 3 of the 4 strokes in individual events (backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle), establishing herself at various times as the world's fastest as well as the world's best all-round swimmer of her day.  Her day was a 5-year period which extended from the Rome Olympics until retirement after the Tokyo Games.  She was the youngest American on the 1960 team, and four years later she won two gold medals.

In between and following these two Olympics, she was the Queen of Swimming and was so recognized by the International Swimming Hall of Fame at its first International Meet in 1965.  During her reign, as most photographed woman athlete, Donna was cover girl on "Life", "Time", "Saturday Evening Post" and twice on "Sports Illustrated".

Her biggest award year was 1964 when she was voted America's Outstanding Woman Athlete, Outstanding American Female Swimmer, and San Francisco's Outstanding Woman of the Year, plus the Mademoiselle Award, National Academy of Sports Award and many others in as many languages.  She has represented the United States, "doing her thing" in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Peru, Brazil, England and Italy.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Happy Birthday Judith van Berkel-de Nijs

Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (NED) 2014 Honor Open Water Swimmer


When women’s swimming was added to the Olympic program in 1912, it was inconceivable that women could ever compete equally against men in sports. The impossible became possible when Gertrude Ederle beat the record time of the male Channel swimmers in 1926.

Before the 1990’s, professional marathon swimming was unique in the world of sports with its inter-gender competitions. Men and women competed head-to-head, mano-o-mano for the same prize money and some extraordinary women often came out on top. In the 1950’s Greta Anderson beat every male marathon swimmer of her era at least once. And then came Judith de Nijs.

Judith was born in Hilversum, Holland, where she trained under the famous Dutch coach and Hall of Famer, Jan Stender, with her older sister, Lenie. Both girls became record breaking, elite swimmers for their native Holland. Judith began her career, specializing in the 400 meter individual medley and in 1961, she set a European record in the event. She then began swimming longer distances, swimming the 1500 meter freestyle, where she became the national champion in the event in 1962.

Inspired by the success of the Flying Dutchman, Herman Wilemse, Judith began competing in open water competitions in 1962. But when she entered the Canadian National Exposition, in 1964, she was a relative unknown among a field of the greatest marathon swimmers ever assembled. The CNE race was a grueling 32 miles across Lake Ontario from Toronto to St. Catherines, in near frigid waters. Almost from the start, Judith and the race favorite, the great Egyptian, Abdellatief Abouhief, swam shoulder to shoulder, trading short leads for fourteen hours before the Egyptian made his move. By then, thirteen of the eighteen swimmers who started the race suffered hypothermia and were pulled from white-capped, 53 degree water. Sixteen hours into the race, Judith, insensible was pulled out and 2 miles short of the finish line, Abouheif, suffered the same fate. While the cruelty of the swim marked the end of the CNE marathon, it was the beginning of Judith’s great career. From 1965 to 1968 and again in 1970, she was ranked number one in the world and in 1969, she joined Hall of Famer, Ada Kok, as the second Dutch woman to swim the English Channel.

In 1968, de Nijs kept to her aquatic roots and married Dutch water polo player, Bob van Berkel. They had a daughter and a son who both played water polo. Judith continues to swim competitively through Masters Swimming, winning national titles. She swims the freestyle events, and currently holds records in the 100 and 200 meter freestyle events.

Like Ederle, Gleitze, and Anderson, Judith helped move the gender-equity movement forward with her courageous swims.

Passages: Hall of Fame Coach Nort Thornton Dies after Battle With Heart Condition

Hall of Fame coach Nort Thornton passed away Thursday morning in California after being hospitalized in March with a heart condition. His son, Marc, wrote in a public Facebook group:

Hello “Nort’s” extended family. I am sad to notify you that Dad passed away at 8 AM this morning. The good news is that he passed peacefully. We are in the process of grieving and planning. I will continue to update this group. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers truly inspiring!! Go Bears (and Go Owls from those of you from the Foothill days)

Thornton, Nort

Nort Thornton while at Cal. Photo Courtesy: ISHOF Archives

Thornton coached at Cal Berkeley from 1974 to his official retirement in 2007 where he won two national titles in back to back years in 1979 and 1980. He also served as a coach for the United States’ 1992 Olympic team which was littered with current and former Cal swimmers Matt BiondiScott JaffeRon KarnaughSean KillionRoque Santos and Joel Thomas. Thornton also coached many individual Olympic medalists in his career including backstroker Peter Rocca (USA); freestylers: Pelle HolmertzBengt BaronPar Arvidsson, and Thomas Lejdstrom, (Sweden); and Graham Smith of Canada. Later in his Cal career after his Hall of Fame induction, he coached Anthony Ervin to shared gold in the 50 freestyle in 2000, and nearly repeated that feat with Croatia’s Duje Draganja grabbing silver in 2004.

Nort Thornton was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Coach in 1995.

Thornton started his Cal career during the 1974-75 season. For 28 of the 33 years he coached the Bears, Thornton’s teams finished ranked in the top 10 in the national polls. The veteran coach was named National Coach of the Year twice and was the Pac-10 Coach of the Year four times, most recently in 1999.

Thornton, Nort

Photo Courtesy: ISHOF Archives

Nort Thornton also helped Cal become a national powerhouse in men’s swimming as the school’s first national champion came during his tenure in 1977 with Graham Smith winning the NCAA titles in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. A year later, the program had its first relay NCAA title with Peter Rocca, Smith, Par Arvidsson and Jim Fairbank winning the 400 medley relay in 1978.

On the international scene, the Cal men had only one Olympic medalist in program history before Thornton stepped on the deck – a silver from Ludy Langer in the 400 free in 1920. Peter Rocca won double silver in the 100 and 200 back while swimming for Thornton in 1976 as Sweden’s Bengt Baron and Par Arvidsson became Cal’s first Olympic gold medalists in men’s swimming by winning the 100 back and 100 fly respectively at the Moscow Games in 1980.

Thornton was also key in helping bring current Cal men’s coach and 2020 Olympic head coach Dave Durden to Berkeley to continue the Golden Bear tradition of excellence.

“Nort has been fantastic in helping me get up to speed with our athletes, the traditions at Cal, and the campus,” said Durden at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. “I always leave each day with a nugget of information from Nort, whether through a technical aspect of swimming or the psychological make-up of developing a team. His presence on the deck in working with the guys is tremendously appreciated.”

Before Cal Berkeley, Nort Thornton began coaching at Los Altos High School in California where his team broke thirteen out of twenty national records. At Foothill Junior College, he built the school into the top junior college program in the nation.

“I’m saddened by the loss of Nort Thornton, a legend who impacted our program, our Cal community and the sport of swimming as a whole in so many tremendous ways. Nort will be remembered as one of our sport’s greatest coaches, but his legacy extends much further than the accolades he received throughout his career. He was a passionate leader who made a difference in the lives of everyone who spent time with him on the pool deck. Nort will be greatly missed, and I join all members of our Cal community in sending condolences and prayers to his family.” – Cal Men’s Swimming & Diving Head Coach David Durden