We admire heroes and champions because they inspire us to be the best that we can be. In the world of swimming, there are many men and women who have overcome great obstacles to become successful. Although our own swimming prowess may be limited to doing the doggy paddle in the backyard pool, we can still learn by example how dedication, courage, and discipline can help us succeed in our own lives. Read on and marvel at the awesome aquatic accomplishments of these extraordinary swimmers!
In 1914, Romanian immigrant Weissmuller contracted polio at the age of nine. Upon his doctor’s advice, he took up swimming to help battle the disease. With his natural ability and perseverance, he won many national swimming events and broke several world records.
In the 1924 Paris Olympics, at the age of 20, he won three gold medals with his unique, powerful swimming style. Four years later, in the Amsterdam Olympics, he won another two gold medals. He retired from competitive swimming in 1929 with an unbeaten amateur record and 67 world records.
Weissmuller found even greater fame as a Hollywood actor with his quintessential portrayal of Tarzan in 12 motion pictures. Later on, he appeared in many movies and TV episodes as the jungle adventurer, Jungle Jim.
Born in California in 1950, Mark Spitz started swimming competitively when he was six years old. By the age of 10, he held 17 national age-group records and one world record. Spitz began gaining world recognition by winning multiple gold medals in international swimming events. With 10 world records to his name, Spitz attended his first Olympic Games in 1968 expecting to bag 6 gold medals. He returned with two golds, one silver, and one bronze.
In the 1972 Munich Olympics, Spitz made history by winning the most gold medals during a single Olympic game. He surpassed his previous target of six golds by winning seven and breaking world records in each event. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1977 and into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983.
Phelps was born in Maryland in 1985 and took to swimming at age seven as an outlet for his energy. At the age of 15, he was the youngest American male swimmer in 68 years to qualify for the Olympics. He failed to win a medal in the 200-meter butterfly in the 2000 Olympics. However, just 5 months later, he broke the world record in that same event, becoming the youngest man to ever set a swimming world record.
He performed well at the 2004 Olympics, winning six gold medals and two bronze ones. During the 2008 Olympics, Phelps won eight gold medals, breaking the 36-year-old record held by Mark Spitz. Upon achieving this record, Phelps remarked, “…anybody can do anything that they set their mind to.”
Certainly, tales of champions inspire us to work hard and overcome adversity to achieve our dreams.