The First Superstar
Johnny Weissmuller was swimming’s first superstar by winning five Olympic gold medals. He won the 100m freestyle and the 4x200m relay team event at both the 1924 Paris Games and 1928 Amsterdam Games. He also won gold in the 400m freestyle and a bronze medal in the water polo competition in Paris.
World record breaker
Over the course of his career, Weissmuller set 28 world records. His 1927 world record for the 100 yard freestyle was unbeaten for 17 years. This was a remarkable length of time during a period of rapid development in the sport. Much of his success was due to his revolutionary high-riding stroke, flutter kick and head-turning breathing.
Still the greatest?
Weissmuller won far fewer gold medals than more recent swimming icons such as Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps. But this was due to the limited number of events available to him. Given the margin of superiority he had over his rivals, some experts still regard him as the greatest swimmer of all time.
After his swimming career, Weissmuller became a movie star. Cast as “Tarzan the Ape Man”, he starred in 12 films and became the actor most commonly identified with the character.