Swimming World Presents “Takeoff To Tokyo Series – Johnny Weissmuller: A Star of Swimming… And Hollywood”

Swimming World July 2020 - Takeoff To Tokyo Series - Johnny Weissmuller - A Star of Swimming And Hollywood - With Maureen O Sullivan

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Takeoff To Tokyo Series – Johnny Weissmuller: A Star of Swimming… And Hollywood

By John Lohn


The latest installment of our Takeoff to Tokyo series looks at the career of the legendary Johnny Weissmuller, one of the first stars in the sport, and then a Hollywood hero.

The way he is remembered varies from person to person. For as many people who know him as one of the greatest swimmers in history, an equal number remember him for playing the prominent Hollywood role of Tarzan. Either way, Johnny Weissmuller—granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame—was revered as one of the 20th century’s most iconic figures.

Many recollections of Weissmuller paint a man running around bare-chested and wearing nothing more than a loin cloth. A cinematic star during the first half of the 20th century, Weissmuller was the human King of the Jungle, perfecting the Tarzan scream while becoming the most-famed actor to handle the role on the big screen.

Yet, before he went to Tinsel Town, Weissmuller etched his name in the annals of swimming, becoming the biggest star of his time and an Olympic champion. Even today, nearly a century after Weissmuller rode his freestyle stroke to multiple Olympic gold medals and numerous world record performances, he is an easy choice as one of the top 10 swimmers of all-time.

Ask anyone with a vast knowledge of swimming about the greatest American men to ever hit the pool, and chances are you will get a six-name list that spans 100 years. The list will include Duke Kahanamoku and Weissmuller as stars of the early years, setting the table for Don Schollander and Mark Spitz and, eventually, Matt Biondi and Michael Phelps.

Like most swimmers, Johnny Weissmuller was in the water at a young age, instructed by a doctor to start building muscle after dealing with a bout of polio. While Weissmuller was a member of a YMCA team in Chicago, the extent of his talent was not immediately realized.
Coached by William Bachrach, Weissmuller was kept out of the public eye by his mentor until the finer details of the sport were enhanced. It wasn’t until Bachrach was satisfied with Weissmuller’s skill and all-around ability that he allowed him to reveal his talent to a wider audience.

“Bachrach kept young Weissmuller under wraps for a year, refining his start and stroke,” a Chicago Tribune article once stated. “In August 1921, he turned his protégé loose to win national championships in the 50-yard and 220-yard distances. He never lost a swimming competition after that.”

The unchaining of Weissmuller set in motion what proved to be the most illustrious career of any swimmer at the time, as Weissmuller went on to set more than 50 world records and win more than 50 national championships. More impressive, his excellence spanned several distances and was not confined to just the freestyle stroke.

To read more about Swimming’s famed Hollywood star Johnny Weissmuller,
Check out the full issue of Swimming World July 2020, available now!

SW July 2020 - Duncan Scott - Heart of Britain's Successful Surge - Cover[PHOTO CREDIT: IAN MACNICOL]

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Swimming World Magazine July 2020 Issue

FEATURES

017 A NEW HOPE
by Dan D’Addona
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the globe and changed the lives of everyone in the world. Now, there is some light at the end of the tunnel as the world struggles to find normalcy again.

020 ISHOF: “CALLING ALL TROUBLEMAKERS”
by Bruce Wigo
Sprinters are a different breed of swimmer. They’re not just free spirits, but they seem to be rule breakers and troublemakers who also are catalysts for positive change. In the first of a two-part feature, Swimming World takes a look at the stories of two of the most well-known female sprinters who fit this image: Dawn Fraser and Eleanor Holm.

023 GREAT SCOT(T)
by David Rieder
Scotland’s Duncan Scott should be an Olympic medal threat next year in the 100 and 200 free and maybe even the 200 IM, and he will be a key cog for British 800 free and 400 medley relays with gold medal aspirations.

026 TAKEOFF TO TOKYO: A STAR OF SWIMMING…AND HOLLYWOOD
by John Lohn
The latest installment of our Takeoff to Tokyo series looks at the career of the legendary Johnny Weissmuller, one of the first stars in the sport, and then a Hollywood hero.

COACHING

012 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: THE VALUE OF HAND FORCE ANALYSIS: PART IV—FREESTYLE
by Rod Havriluk
The first three articles in this series (Part I—Butterfly, Part II—Backstroke and Part III—Breaststroke) presented information about the value of using hand force analysis to reinforce positive technique elements and identify limitations. The current article includes more general information about force analysis with a freestyle example.

014 AEROBIC OVERLOAD: VOLUME REVISITED (Part 2)
by Michael J. Stott
Last month, Swimming World examined the role of volume in aquatic training. This month, some of America’s most successful swimmers share how volume shaped their development.

042 Q&A WITH COACH TOM JOHNSON
by Michael J. Stott

044 HOW THEY TRAIN EMILY OVERHOLT AND MARKUS THORMEYER
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

011 DRYSIDE TRAINING: THE NEED FOR STRENGTH
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

046 UP & COMERS: ZACH TOWER
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS & SPECIAL SECTIONS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

010 THE OFFICIAL WORD

019 DID YOU KNOW? NO TO TOPLESS BATHING; HIGH DIVING; AND FIRST FULLY AUTOMATIC ELECTRONIC TIMING SYSTEM

029 2020 AQUATIC DIRECTORY

041 DADS ON DECK

047 GUTTERTALK

048 PARTING SHOT

3 comments

  1. Mike Mcgowan

    Maybe somebody can confirm or deny. Since I started swimming in the 60’s and still do there has always been a story that Weissmuller still holds a record in a straight away 100 free. I believe it may have been in San Francisco’s Flieshacker pool. Anybody.

  2. Diane Pavelin

    My uncle knew Weissmuller when he was a Chicago lifeguard, and he helped my uncle with his strokes. After Johnny won at the Olympics, he and my uncle used to do PR “match races” whenever he came back to Chicago.

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