Great Moments in Olympic Swimming History

Famous Olympic Swimming and Swimmer Moments

Some of the great moments in Olympic Swimming history. Am I missing some? Let me know!
01
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1896 - Alfred Hajos (Hungary) - First Swimming Gold

Alfréd Hajós, Hungary - the First Olympic Champion in swimming
Alfréd Hajós, Hungary - the First Olympic Champion in swimming. Public Domain

A boat dropped everyone into the water in the icy waters of the Mediterranean. The first swimmer to shore won. "My will to live completely overcame my desire to win" - Alfred Hajos.

02
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1956, 1960, 1964 - Dawn Fraser (Australia) - 100 Free Gold Medal x 3

Dawn Fraser of Australia wins the 100m Freestyle Final at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Dawn Fraser of Australia wins the 100m Freestyle Final at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Allsport UK/Allsport/Getty Images
Dawn Fraser of Australia becomes the first swimmer to win gold in the same event for three consecutive Olympics.
03
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Men's 800 Meter Freestyle Relay Olympic Swimming Medalists

Don Schollander was the first swimmer to win 4 Gold Medals in a single Olympics. He won the 100 and 200 freestyle and was part of the winning 400 and 800 freestyle relays at the 1964 Olympic Games.

04
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1968, 1972 - Roland Matthes (East Germany) Double Gold Medal Backstroke

Roland Matthes
Roland Matthes. Public Domain
Roland Matthes was undefeated in backstroke events from 1967 to 1974, including the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games.
05
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1972 - Mark Spitz (USA) - 7 Gold Medals in One Olympic Games

Mark Spitz swimming during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany.
Mark Spitz swimming during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images
Mark Spitz becomes the first person to win 7 gold medals in one Olympic games. 100 Free, 200 Free, 100 Fly, 200 Fly, 4x100 Free Relay, 4x200 Free Relay, and 4x100 Medley Relay.
06
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1976 - USA Men - How many Golds?

David Wilkie of Great Britain
David Wilkie of Great Britain - the only non-USA Men's Swimming Gold Medalist at the 1976 Olympics. Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images
Montreal, and a dominance that has never been seen. The USA men won 10 out of 11 individual gold medals (the one they did not win, the 200 breaststroke, was won by David Wilkie of Great Britain; David swam at the University of Miami). The USA men also took 10 silver medals (Wilkie was silver in the 100 Breast), 5 bronze medals, and gold in both relay events. That is 27 Medals (12-10-5). The next closest were Great Britain with three medals (1-1-1) and the Soviet Union. also with three (0-1-2).
07
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1976 - USA Women - 4 x 100 Free Relay Gold

Shirley Babashoff, USA, 1976 Olympic Games.
Shirley Babashoff, USA, 1976 Olympic Games. She spoke out on drug-enhanced female swimmers and was considered a bad sport. She was later proven right. Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images

The USA Women's team had high hopes for the 1976 Montreal Olympics, but seemed to come up short again and again, usually against swimmers from East Germany. In the 4 x 100 Free Relay, they said enough is enough and swam above their apparent abilities. In an awesome team performance, Kim Peyton, Jill Sterkel, Shirley Babashoff, and Wendy Boglioli took the gold.

08
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1980 - Vladimir Salnikov (Russia) Breaks 15-minute 1500-meter Barrier

Vladimir Salnikov, USSR, GOld in the 1500m Freestyle 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, time of 14:58.27
Vladimir Salnikov, USSR, GOld in the 1500m Freestyle 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, time of 14:58.27. He was the first to break the 15-minute barrier. Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images

1980, short some countries as it was a boycotted Olympic Games, was held in Russia. Swimmer Vladimir Salnikov (Russia) did not care, he swam to the best performance in the 1500-meter freestyle, becoming the first swimmer ever under 15 minutes (14:58.27).

09
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1984 - First Tie in Olympic Swimming

Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer
Nancy Hogshead Of The United States And Carrie Steinseifer Of The United States Celebrate Their Joint Gold Medal Finish In The Women's 100 Meter Freestyle Swim Competition At The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Tony Duffy/Getty Images
US Swimmers Nancy Hogshead and Carie Steinseifer registered the first tie in Olympic history in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1984 Olympics. Both swimmers touched the wall at 55.92.
10
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1984 - Rowdy Gaines Comeback

Chris Cavanaugh, Matt Biondi, Michael Heath, And Rowdy Gaines, 4 x 100 Free Relay
Chris Cavanaugh, Matt Biondi, Michael Heath, And Rowdy Gaines, 4 x 100 Free Relay. Tony Duffy/Getty Images
Rowdy Gaines held 11 World Records, but he missed an opportunity to shine when the USA boycottted the 1980 Olympics. He made a comeback for the 1984 LA Games, and despite not being expected to be a major player, won three gold medals.
11
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1988 - Kristin Otto (East Germany) - 6 Gold Medals

Kristin Otto, 1988 Seoul Olympics, Gold Medal, 50 Free
Kristin Otto, 1988 Seoul Olympics, Gold Medal, 50 Free. Getty Images
East Germany's Kristin Otto swam to 6 gold medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. She was the only women to win that many golds, and to win in three different strokes, butterfly, backstroke, and freestyle. It was later learned that she had been part of a systematic East German doping process.
12
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1988, 1992, 1996 - Krisztina Egerszegi (Hungary) - 200 Back Gold Medal x 3

Krisztina Egerszegi, Hungary, gold medal, women's 200 backstroke 1996 Centennial Olympic Games
Krisztina Egerszegi, Hungary, gold medal, women's 200 backstroke 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Mike Hewitt/Allsport/Getty Images
Backstroker Krisztina Egerszegi of Hungary becomes the second swimmer in Olympic history to win gold medals in the same event at three successive Olympic games in the 200 Backstroke.
13
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2000 - Misty Hyman (USA) - 200 Fly Gold

Misty Hyman, USA, gold medal 200M fly at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
Misty Hyman, USA, gold medal 200M fly at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Hyman was an upset winner with an inspirational performance. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Butterfly swimmer Misty Hyman (USA) was not expected to win the gold at the Sydney games, but in a near-perfect swim she claimed gold over the local favorite, to the disbelief of the quieted Aussie crowd.
14
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2008 - Jason Lezak Anchors the Men's 4x100 Free Relay to Gold

Jason Lezak
Jason Lezak. Nick Laham/Getty Images
Jason Lezak anchored the US Men's relay to a Gold medal, starting over 1/2 second behind the French team and their swimmer, the (then) world record holder in the 100 free. With 50 meters to go, Lezak was over 3/4 of a second behind. With 25 meters to go, Lezak seemed to have a burst of energy while the French swimmer started to fade, and at the wall the US swimmer out-touched Alain Bernard by .08 seconds. It was one of the greatest anchor legs in history; Lezak split a 46.06.
15
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2008 - Michael Phelps (USA) - Most Gold Medals

Michael Phelps
Michael Phelps of the United States. Nick Laham/Getty Images
By the end of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps won more Olympic Gold medals than any other Olympic athlete (16 total – 14 Gold, 0 Silver, 2 Bronze). And he has the most medals in a single Olympics, 8 in 2004 and 2008 - and in '08, all 8 were gold ones.
16
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2008, 2000, 1992, 1988, 1984 - Dara Torres (USA) 5x Olympian

Dara Torres
Dara Torres smiles after winning the final of the 100 meter freestyle and qualifying for her fifth Olympic team during the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials on July 4, 2008. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Dara Torres made 5 USA Olympic Teams, medaling in all of them. Dara is tied for second on the list of US atheltes with the most Olympic medals with 12 (4G - 4S - 4B).

Updated by Dr. John Mullen, DPT, CSCS on December 30th 2015.