Olympic Games Gold Medalist Athlete, Actor. Because he was foreign born, he gave his birthplace as Windber, Pennsylvania, and his brother, Peter Weissmuller’s birthdate to ensure his eligibility to compete as part of the United States Olympic team, and so he could be issued an American passport. Johnny started swimming at age 9 and made the YMCA swim team in 1916. At the Amateur Athletic Union national championships in 1923, he won the freestyle events at 50, 100, 220 and 500 yards and then captured the 150-yard backstroke, cutting six seconds off the world mark. He captured three of his gold medals at age 20 in the 1924 Olympics, winning the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyles in Olympic record times of 59 seconds and 5:04.2, and anchoring the 800-meter freestyle relay team that produced a world record of 9:53.2. In the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, he won his fourth and fifth gold medals, in the 100-meter race and anchoring the 800-meter relay team. He developed his famous six-beat-double-Trudgen crawl stroke where he swam with his back arched and his head, shoulders and chest thrust out of the water. He shook his head loosely from side to side, inhaling and exhaling on both sides. He cocked his elbows high, drove his arms down into the water hard and behind him hard. While he kicked six beats to every cycle of his arms, he considered kicking of consequence only to maintain balance, stay high in the water and reduce drag. In all, he won five Olympic gold medals, one bronze medal, won fifty-two U. S. National Championships and set sixty-seven world records. Johnny Weissmuller never lost a race and retired from his amateur swimming career undefeated. He was the greatest swimmer of all time. In 1950, the sportswriters and sportscasters of America voted him by an overwhelming margin the greatest swimmer of the half century. After turning professional, Mr. Weissmuller endorsed bathing suits for a while. Then in 1932 began his acting career. He made 34 movies, the most notable role being that of Tarzan based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1965 he was Founding Chairman of The International Swimming Hall of Fame. In 1970 he attended the British Commonwealth Games in Jamaica where he was presented to Queen Elizabeth. In 1971 he received the “American Patriot Award.” In 1976 he was inducted in the Body Building Guild Hall of Fame. He died of a pulmonary edema at his retirement home in Acapulco. Upon his death, mainland China’s state-run television devoted nearly four minutes to Weissmuller.
Bio by: Debbie