Century’s best…and worst

Century’s best…and worst

Whitten, Phillip

In the December issue of Swimming World, we presented our choices for the century’s 50 greatest swimmers. Mark Spitz and Dawn Fraser topped our list. Though swimmers are, rightly, the focus of our sport, there is much more to the sport of swimming than just the swimmers: there are coaches, officials, innovators and innovations, and actions taken (or not taken) by governing bodies. Here are my personal choices for the century’s best … and worst. Let us know what you think.

Greatest Coach of the 20th Century: George Haines. It is extremely difficult to compare coaches. Some are primarily developmental, some work best with established athletes, some are simply terrific recruiters. Some coaches are great stroke technicians, while others are inspiring and master psychologists. In this century, coaches have worked under such extreme variations of conditions that they are barely comparable. Still, when all is said and done, the achievements of Coach Haines tower above all others’. His teams won 35 national championships, and he coached hundreds of national champions and more Olympic champions than any other coach. Among his stars: Chris Von Saltza, Donna De Varona, Claudia Kolb, Steve Clark, Don Schollander and Mark Spitz.

Greatest Contributor of the 20th Century: James E. “Doc” Counsilman. Doc was a great coach whose Indiana teams won six straight NCAA titles and whose swimmers set 154 American and 52 world records. He was also the premier innovator in this century and the founding father of the science of swimming.

Greatest Team of the 20th Century: 1976 U.S. Men’s Olympic swim team. Not only was this the greatest swim team of the century, a good case can be made that it was the greatest team in any sport. In Montreal, the American men won 10 of 11 individual events, nine in world record time, and won both relays in world record time. They had nine 1-2 sweeps and took all three medals in four events. In their one “bad” event, the 200 breast, the U.S. finished 2-3.

Most Courageous Olympic Swimmer: Herbert Klein. At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Herbert Klein swam the 200 meter breaststroke for his native Germany. A tall, muscular man in his late 20s, Klein was a German Jew who had somehow survived the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp. As he stood on the starting block, the blue number tattooed on his arm was a poignant symbol of the painful, inhuman obstacles he had to overcome. Klein won a bronze medal.

Five Greatest Innovations You Probably Never Think About: (5) Lane lines; (4) lane dividers; (3) pace clock; (2) goggles; (1) circle swimming.

Most Shameful Episode of the Century I: East Germany’s state– mandated and state-sponsored organized doping. In the name of political ideology, thousands of coaches, trainers, physicians and sports officials participated in massive organized cheating, using young children as guinea pigs. As a result, many great swimmers lost out on their chance for Olympic glory. Even today, FINA and the IOC refuse to right a proven historic wrong.

Phil’s e-mail: swimphil@aol.com

Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Jan 2000

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved