USA Swimming 1936 100 Backstroke Gold Medalist Adolph Kiefer Turns 98

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It is only fitting that we celebrate Adolph Kiefer today as the oldest living USA Olympian.

Tonight, USA Swimming will take another step in crowning two new 100 backstroke Olympians. The seventeen-year-old Kiefer represented the United States at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany winning a gold medal in the men’s 100-meter backstroke. His Olympic record time of 1:05.9 remained unbroken for 20 years. That time today would have finished in last place among the 155 USA Women Olympic Trial qualifiers in Omaha.

Kiefer became the first man to break the one-minute mark in the 100-yard backstroke while competing as a 16-year-old in the Illinois High School Championships of 1935. He swam the distance in 59.8 seconds. His 1936 Illinois state championship backstroke time of 58.5 seconds was the Illinois state high-school record until 1960. On April 6, 1940 Kiefer set another record, swimming the 100-yard backstroke in 57.9 seconds.

Kiefer broke twenty-three records after breaking the one-minute backstroke mark. Kiefer went on to set a world record for 100-meter backstroke of 1:04.8 on January 18, 1936 at Brennan Pools in Detroit, Michigan.

In 2007, USA Swimming presented Kiefer with a gold medal from the 1936 Olympic Games, to replace the one that had been stolen shortly after he returned from Berlin 71 years ago. The medal was specially cast from the original mold for the occasion by the International Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Watch this Morning Swim Show With Kiefer From 2014

Adolf Kiefer has been nominated for the Medal of Freedom award, which is awaiting approval by President Obama

Learn More About Adolf Kiefer

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Chuck Kroll
Chuck Kroll
7 years ago


Chuck Kroll
Chuck Kroll
7 years ago

Just for clarification Mr. Kiefer was actually 18 yrs old when he won Gold in ’36. The swimming competition was held from August 12-14.

Another interesting note is that Adolph’s silver medal winning teammate was Al Vandeweghe of the uber sports Vandeweghe family that continues on to this day with grand niece Coco on the professional tennis courts.

7 years ago

Great article, great swimmer! Adolph left a great legacy. I’m a big fan of his swimming company, Kiefer:

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