Johnny Weissmuller (born Peter Johann Weißmüller; June 2, 1904 – January 20, 1984), was an American competitive swimmer and an actor who was remembered for playing “Tarzan” in films during the 1930s and 1940s. Weissmuller’s swimming records have long been surpassed; though he remains to be the best known swimmer of all time. He was only 17 when he set the first of his many world records. Many experts considered his 100y freestyle record of 51.0 to be his greatest achievement of all time in 1927. That record of his remained a world record for 17 years.
Greatest Sporting Achievements
Johnny Weissmuller won a total of five Olympic gold medals and one bronze medal, fifty-two US national championships and held sixty-seven world records. Throughout his career, he never lost a race and retired with an unbeaten amateur record. Weissmuller was the first to swim the 100m freestyle in under one minute and swim the 440y freestyle under five minutes. In 1950, he was selected as the Greatest Swimmer of the First Half of the 20th Century by the Associated Press. In 1983, he was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Why Was He So Good?
Weissmuller has one of the best competitive swimming records of the 20th century. During the 1920s, he was one of the world’s fastest swimmers. He was a man of two careers – a swimmer and an actor. “His swimming style calls for six beats of the legs for every two arm strokes with precise synchronization of feet and arms. His power came from a full arm pull, from the moment each hand struck the water until it emerged.”
What You May Not Know
- Johnny was born in Romania. His parents were both ethnic German and Hungarian citizens. They moved to America when he was only three and to be eligible to the Olympics, he told everyone he was born in Windber, Pennsylvania.
- A recording of his trademark Tarzan yell was played as his coffin was lowered into the ground, at his request.
- He was presented to Queen Elizabeth in 1970 when he attended the British Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
Was he a legend?
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