Excerpt by Georgia Tech's Chris DeSantis, originally published at SwimmingWorld.TV
PHOENIX, Arizona, January 21. ASK anyone in America who the greatest swimmer in the world is, and the answer comes easy. Before him, even a few kids in my high school math class could name Thorpe at the turn of the decade. Go back further, however, and even acute swimming fans memory gets a little hazy. Who was the best before Thorpe? Was it Biondi? Popov? With that in mind, I set out on a ridiculously ambitious quest for a simple swimming blog: decide who the heavyweight champions of the swimming world have been at any given time. For simplicity's sake, I am going to set aside all swimmers before World War Two and focus on the post-war "modern" era of swimming. We start with the men:
1956-1963: Murray Rose (Australia). Rose was the first versatile freestyler of the post-war age, winning three golds in 1956 as the unquestioned world's best 400, 1500 and 200 (not contested but swum as part of the 4×200 relay) swimmer. During this time period Rose successfully fended off a number of other contenders for world's best: among them George Breen and countryman John Konrads. Even at Konrads peak, in 1960, Rose was able to get the better of him in the 400 free (4:18.3 vs. 4:21.8) and finish closer in the 1500 (17:19.2 vs 17:21.7). Breen lost to him in consecutive Olympiads. Without a 200 or 50 free at the Olympics, it is tough to judge the best sprinters of this era, who had at best two shots for gold (100 free, 4×200). Also stroke swimmers were entering just one event with no medley relay. Rose did not compete at the 1964 Olympics due to being unable to return to the country for their Olympic Trials, yet set a world record in the 1500 at American Nationals that year.
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