PHOENIX, Arizona, November 3. ONCE again, Rewind takes our readers back in time to review another U.S. Short Course National Championship. This time, Rewind turns back the clock to 1982.
In Gainesville, Fla., in 1982, Tracy Caulkins became the all-time leader in U.S. national titles by eclipsing the previous standard of 36 set by Johnny Weissmuller from 1921-28. At the end of the meet, Caulkins finished with 39 national crowns.
Here is an excerpt of the story written by our former statistical editor Bill Bell and our current senior editor Bob Ingram in the June issue of Swimming World Magazine that year.
Indeed, there was a very good swimmer. He was an American. An Olympic champion. A world record holder. His name was Johnny Weissmuller.
Tarzan. He could swing from the vines with the best of 'em. But before entering show biz he was a great swimmer. The greatest American swimmer (perhaps the greatest in all the world) of his era. He won 36 national championships over a seven-year span (1921-28) and rather than king of the jungle, Weissmuller should have been more accurately known as king of the swimming pool.
From 100 yards or meters through 500 yards or 400 meters he was unbeatable when it came to freestyle. For good measure he even won a 150 yard backstroke title one year (1923), clocking 1:42.0 for the Illinois Athletic Club.
How far was Weissmuller ahead of his contemporaries? The year before he won his only backstroke crown, the top time for that race was a blazing 1:49.8. The year after: 1:47.4.
His Olympic golds came in 1924 (100-400 meter freestyle) and four years later in the 100 free. All were world records.
Forty-nine years after Weissmuller won his last medal, another American embarked upon a swimming streak. Five years later that streak would carry her past the legendary Tarzan and into the record books as America's greatest swimmer ever.
Little did Tracy Caulkins realize when she won her first national title (the 100 yard breaststroke at Canton, Ohio, in April 1977) what she was starting. In the half decade since, Caulkins has run up a total of 39 national championships, set 31 individual American records and one world record (the 200 IM at the Woodlands in August 1978).
At the O'Connell Center Pool here in Gainesville, April 7-10, during the U.S. Short Course Nationals, she tied Weissmuller's 36 wins by splashing to the 200 back title opening night (1:57.77, just off her American record 1:57.02). The next evening Tarzan became just another name in the U.S. Swimming record book as Caulkins won the 400 individual medley for No. 37, swept to No. 38 Friday night (200 IM) and climaxed her 14th Nationals by winning the 100 breast Saturday evening.
For the record, Caulkins has won 39 of 46 national championship races since her first U.S. title at Canton. She's won her last 12 consecutive USS National races, four at each of the last two short course championships and four last summer in Brown Deer (long course).
For the complete Swimming World Magazine article on the 1982 Short Course Championships, click here.
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