Passages: Jimmy McLane Jr., Three-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Dies at 90

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Jimmy McLane Jr., died peacefully in his home on Sunday December 13, 2020t at age 90.

A three-time Olympic gold medalist and member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, McLane qualified for the Olympics in 1948, winning two medals in London. He won gold with his 19:18.5 in the 1500 freestyle, and silver in the 400 freestyle with a time of 4:43.4.

He was part of a world record in London on the USA’s 4x200m free relay team (8:46.0) for the gold medal.McLane made the USA Olympic team again four years later. In Helsinki, he again won a gold medal as part of the 4x200m relay, and finished 4th in the 1500m free (18:51.5) and 7th in 400m free (4:40.3).

He went to Yale University where he competed on the swimming team, graduating in 1953, and helping the team win two national titles. McLane was the most persistent of Yale’s 3 Ms, with 9 National wins. The 3 Ms (Moore, Marshall and McLane) were the stars of Hall of Famer Bob Kiphuth‘s greatest Yale teams. Kiphuth was McLane’s guardian. McLane’s greatest Yale year was 1953 when he won 3 events at the National AAU Indoor Championships.

“Jimmy McLane, along with John Marshall and Wayne Moore, all three Olympic gold medalists, formed the iconic 3 M’s of Yale swimming in the early 1950s, part of the reason why many high school swimmers (including me) chose to attend Yale. They continued and expanded the historic excellence and legend of Yale swimming and Bob Kiphuth, their coach, while competing in and winning the NCAA championships in 1951 and 1953. Jim is the last of the 3 M’s to go, and he will be missed as are the others. RIP, Jimmy McLane,” said former Yale swimmer Steve Clark.

During the Korean Conflict he served in New York with the U.S. Army Intelligence.

He swam for the U.S. Army for two years. During this time he married to his first wife, Barbara Hamby who passed in 1981.

Jimmy McLane was the youngest ever Men’s AAU swimming champion when he won the National Long Distance title at age 13, swimming for Akron’s Firestone Swimming Club.

He ended his swimming career as the U.S. team’s oldest Pan American champion at 24 by winning three gold medals. In 1970, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

From the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF):

In a career extending from 1944 through 1955, McLane was perhaps the greatest tactician in swimming. He almost always had a plan that included complete knowledge of his opponents’ usual race plan. McLane relished the tactics and strategy of gamesmanship. His classic victory was the gold medal he won in the 1500 meter freestyle at the 1948 Olympic Games. High School boy McLane studied the great John Marshall and found the Australian liked to swim by hugging the lane line on his breathing side. McLane, who had a powerful kick, swam in the next lane and hugged the other side of the same lane line, sprinting out one body length ahead of Marshall. Kicking hard, McLane let his splash frustrate the Australian. McLane won, then swam with Marshall for three years at Yale. No one had a more fantastic record for a couple of years than Marshall at Yale. Perhaps, remembering his Olympic experience, he was the first swimmer to go all out all the way in longer races. McLane swam second to Marshall in those college years, then came back to win again in 1952 and as late as 1955 after Marshall’s career was in decline.

According to Ipswich News McLane had a distinguished career in business, working for Life Magazine and General Mills. He retired in the middle of his adult life due to Multiple Sclerosis, he stayed active and fully embraced life every day.

Check out the Jimmy McClane comic book from the ISHOF archives

McLane’s advice to aspiring swimmers: “Medals are important to the average person. They are not very important to me, when I remember my achievements, I remember the work and training not the medal, that’s what is most valuable.”

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In addition to his wife Carol of 16 years he is survived by three sons,  James McLane III of California, Peter McLane and his wife Beth Ann of Missouri, Mathew McLane and his wife Cathy of Minnesota; a daughter, Susan McLane of New York; a brother, Timothy McLane of Ohio; sister Noel McLane of Washington; seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A private funeral service will be held graveside in the Southside Cemetery in Ipswich. Memorial contributions in his name may be made to the Ipswich YMCA,  110 County Road, Ipswich, MA 01938. To send a condolence please visit