There have been a few names in swimming over the years that have made an impact on the public and on the sport. Not many professional swimmers become famous but there are several that are very memorable and not just for their swimming.
Mark Spitz is widely considered to be the greatest swimmer ever. He won a total of 11 Olympic medals after taking up the sport at the age of 9. Just a year later he was the hold of several records for his age group and a further world record. He first appeared at the Olympics in 1968 and while he was expected to win up to 6 gold medals he walked away with just two, plus a silver and a bronze. It was four years later in Munich that he made a real impact, taking home seven gold medals. He retired from competitive swimming at the age of 22.
Biondi also won 11 Olympic medals, eight of them gold. He took part in three Olympic golds, but he won a total of seven medals at the Seoul games in 1988, which was his best performance. He has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame for his sporting achievements.
Johnny Weissmuller was one of the first famous swimmers, mainly because he went on to become a successful actor. He took part in two Olympic games, winning five gold medals and a bronze. Swimming was not his only sport though and his bronze medal was for water polo in 1924 at the Paris games. He is most famous for playing Tarzan in a series of Hollywood movies. He has a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, but he was the first chairman of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Ian Thorpe took part in two Olympic games and took home a total of nine medals, five of these were gold. The Australian swimmer also held world records in several events and was very successful at other competitions including the Commonwealth Games and the World Championships. He has the distinction of being named World Swimmer of the Year on no less than four occasions.
The first Olympic Games for Michael Phelps was Sydney in 2000. He was just 15 then and he went home empty-handed, but the same year broke a world record. Just four years later at Athens he was able to take home a total of eight medals, six of which were gold. He went on to break further world records and took home medals from other competitions too.
Jenny Thompson won 8 gold medals and 12 medals in total across four different Olympic Games. Her first international medal came at the Pan American Games when she was just 14. However, her career was not without disappointments and there were times when she did not win events that her fans thought she was a cert for. Swimming World Magazine voted her World Swimmer of the Year in 1999.
This Hungarian swimmer found fame for her skill from the latter part of the 1980s to the mid-1990s. She competed in three Olympic Games and won a total of 7 medals, 5 of which were gold. She was a backstroke swimmer and broke world records. She has also been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Dawn Fraser is a freestyle swimmer from Australia. She was the first woman to break the one-minute barrier in the 100 metres. Over three Olympic Games she won eight medals, five of which were gold. In 1965 she was voted Australian of the Year and in 2000 she was one of the torch bearers at the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony. She went on to become a politician.
Shane Gould was an Australian swimmer who retired at just 16. She only appeared at one Olympic Games – Munich in 1972. Her medal haul from that games was 5, including three gold medals. In each of her gold medal-winning races she broke the world record. She was named as Australian of the Year in 1972 and was honoured several times because of her swimming achievements.