By Chuck Kroll
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., April 25. ONE hundred years ago today on April 25th, C.M. "Charlie" Daniels won the finals of the 100-meter freestyle at the 1906 ‘Interim’ or 'Intercalated' Olympics held in Athens. His time was 1:13.4.
Born March 24, 1885, swimming for the New York Athletic Club, Daniels became America’s first great swimming champion and was considered the world’s greatest swimmer from 1904 until retiring in 1910-11.
Early in his career he experimented with the two-beat Australian crawl. By kicking steadily and independently from the arm stroke, he evolved the freestyle into a modern speed swimming style.
Daniels debut on the world swimming scene was in 1904 during the Olympics held in St. Louis, where he won gold in the 220-yard, the 440-yard and 200-yard relay. In addition, he took the silver in the 100 and bronze in the 50-yard race. He had just turned 19 years of age. Four years later in Athens he won his first Gold in the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze in the relay event.
Then in London in 1908, at age 23, he defended his Olympic title in the 100-meter freestyle and helped the USA 800 relay to a bronze.
Over the course of his career, Daniels broke and set numerous world records including the 100-yard free (55.8), 100-meter free (1:02.8), 200-meter free (2:25.4) and the 500-meter free (7:03.4).
Toward the end of his swimming in 1909, he won all the American National A.A.U. championships in freestyle from the 100 to the mile. During this year he was chosen as the North American Athlete of the Year by the Helms Hall athletic board.
At the New York Athletic Club he was also known as a champion squash and bridge player. In 1910, both the Hassan and Mecca cigarette brands issued trading cards bearing Daniels' image. And in 1922, C.M. Daniels wrote the book ‘SPEED SWIMMING’ part of the ‘Spalding’ Red Cover Series of Athletic Handbooks.
In 1965, Charlie Daniels was inducted as a member of the first class into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Over its history, the United States has produced many great male swimmers from Weissmuller to Spitz to Phelps. The first of these champions was C.M. "Charlie" Daniels.
Swim trivia: Who were Charlie Daniels’ NYAC teammates on the Gold medal relay team at the 1904 Olympics?