Hall Of Fame Week: Craig Beardsley Continues to Motivate and Give Back

Lexie Vanderloo and Craig Beardsley
Lexie Vanderloo and Craig Beardsley at halfway point of 20k swim in Seneca Lake.

Hall Of Fame Week: Craig Beardsley Continues to Motivate and Give Back

The gold medal. The most coveted prize of our sport. This medal crowns you as champion of the world. But what if your chance to get this medal was stripped away with circumstances out of your control?

Introducing Craig Beardsley

A standout swimmer from NYC, Craig Beardsley unfortunately had his opportunity for a gold medal stolen. After the United States decided to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games, Beardsley’s chance to earn a gold medal was stripped away. As the favorite in the 200-meter butterfly for these Games, it was devastating to have dreams erased by the political issues in the world. Beardsley attempted to qualify for Team USA in 1984, but he placed third in Olympic Trials in the 200 fly, just three-tenths shy of qualifying for the Los Angeles Games.

Even though Beardsley never lived out his Olympic swim, his career was impressive nonetheless. He held the world record for the 200-meter butterfly from 1980-1983 and was the champion for the Pan American games in 1979 and 1983. He also swam for the University of Florida on a full scholarship, a period highlighted by an NCAA title in the 200 butterfly.

Giving Back to the Swimming Community

Beardsley’s love for swimming never disappeared, and he continues to give back to the swimming community. As a director for Swim Across America, he has devoted considerable time to raising money for cancer research by appearing as a celebrity guest at these swims. In April 2022, Beardsley assisted Olympian Elizabeth Beisel in organizing a swim to raise money for cancer research.  

My Experience

Beardsley also never passes up opportunities to assist the newest wave of swimmers. This past summer, he volunteered to pilot a 20k swim around Seneca Lake for the Finger Lakes Open Water Swimming Festival. I was fortunate enough to be paired with him for this swim, and it has been one of my favorite open-water races to date. Before the swim, Beardsley helped me strategize how I was going to feed and rehydrate during the swim, as well as how we were going to navigate the currents. Throughout the swim, he praised me with words of encouragement and helped me stay mentally strong. I distinctly remember at mile eight, flipping over to stretch out my back, and Craig said that I never looked stronger. Even in that moment of exhaustion, his words really helped me continue swimming and make it to the finish line.

This week, Beardsley is being inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, as he so rightfully deserves. As an amazing athlete and mentor, Beardsley has not only inspired me, but the entire next generation of swimmers to push past adversity and keep loving this sport.

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