View Full Version : who was greater for their time

July 7th, 2002, 12:07 AM
I think that Johnny Weissmuller was better for his time than Mark Spitz because he was a natural. He workout not that much compared to Spitz who workout several times more yardage. Granted, Spitz did have the ideal olympics that porbably no other swimmer will do again. There is too much competition today compared to 1972 and there are few freestylers who can also won butterfly at the international level these days. This is for fun.

July 7th, 2002, 05:30 PM
Spitz, all the way. Flexible, versatile, the ultimate swimmer!

July 8th, 2002, 09:35 AM
During the 2000 Olympics, Cadillac had a promotion on their website, called something like the Swim Race of the Ages. They had a virtual swim race between the greats of various ages, and you were supposed to choose who would win. They gave you each swimmer's best time for the 100m free, along with all the pluses and minuses of the various swimmers. For example, Johnny Weismuller had to wear a wool suit, didn't do flip turns, and swam with his head out of the water (I always thought he did that just for the Tarzan movies, so the camera could see his face, but it turns out that he really did swim that way all the time). Mark Spitz had the advantage of training more than Weismuller did, but not nearly as much as later swimmers such as Matt Biondi. He also was still doing a pretty flat start in his prime. The computer was going to equalize all the swimmers (Weismuller would get extra credit for his wool suit), and then choose who would win this hypothetical race. Anyway, I read through all the stuff about the various swimmers (in addition to Weismuller, Spitz, and Biondi, there was also Don Schollander and Buster Crabbe, and maybe some others I'm forgetting now), and when all was said and done I just felt that Mark Spitz was just the best swimmer I've ever seen. So I picked Spitz and forgot about it.

Just before Christmas 2000 I got a package in the mail from Cadillac. It seems the computer had picked Spitz too, and the names of all the entrants who had picked Spitz were put into a pile, and winners were drawn from the pile. I had won a Kodak digital camera! I didn't even realize it was a contest with prizes. I was just interested in the hypothetical question of who would win such a race! I was happy enough that the computer agreed with me that Mark Spitz would win, but the camera was really the icing on the cake.

July 8th, 2002, 11:36 AM
I really don't know the difference in yardage between Spitz and BLondi. But I do know that Laura Val a few years younger than Spitz did workout 15,000 yards a day back in the early 1970's. However, she might have swam more distance freestyle. In the 1960's yardage might have been less because goggles didn't come about until 1971 for most swimmers to use in workouts. The dives were different. The older style got more distance but grab starts and track starts get you off the blocks faster. And Spitz's grab start was flater.

Tom Ellison
July 8th, 2002, 11:45 AM
These hypothetical comparisons are interesting. Boxing enthusiasts have been comparing great fighters for years wondering who would have been the best boxer. Heck, they will always wonder if Joe Lewis was tougher the Ali...or Mike Tyson tougher the Ali..and so on and so on.
The same holds true in swimming. Johnny Weismuller swam very fast in a wool suit, no flip turns and without modern training methods, fast pools, lane lines etc. How fast could he have been? That questions will never be answered....but, it is fun to wonder.
I believe each was great....and we will always wonder who would have been the fastest. Having said that.... winning seven (7) gold medals in one Olympic Games is pretty tough to beat!

July 8th, 2002, 01:07 PM
Interesting "what-ifs" but at the end of the day-as many have pointed out--you cannot be sure who would have done better--Weismuller, Murray Rose, Mark Spitz, Tracy Caulkins, pick your favorite past swimmer under "equal" conditions.

HOWEVER, the various comments about Spitz's incredible 7 golds and 7 world records as "untouchable" may not seem such a sure thing as we watch Natalie Coughlin turn in some incredible performances. Coughlin has that rare talent that converts well into stroke and free and has chosen to compete at world class levels in fly/back/free. She is a legitimate threat for 7 gold and 7 world records at the next Olympics--in fact the only legitimate threat despite a lot of P.R. about Thorpe. I grant you, hoever, that Thorpe is probably the best Australian swimmer since Murray Rose and a legitmate gold medalist in 100/200/400 free. Coughlin is a legitimate gold medal threat in 100 free/100back/200 back/100 fly plus should swim all three relays. We'll have to wait to see if she can do it all in 2004 (after all Spitz's "failure" in 68 helped him win it all in 72)--her feat will be even more incredible given the trial, semi-finals, finals format for all of her events.

The other "young" swimmer with the potential to be the best in several events is Michael Phelps (shades of Gary Hall, Sr ?) who is legitmate gold medalist in 100/200 fly and 200/400 IM. However, Phelps is unlikely to make the 400/800 FR relays and the demands of swimming multiple heats of his events might make it much harder to win 4 individual events.

So, who's the best ever? I think we watching them develop right now.

Matt S
July 8th, 2002, 01:14 PM
It's not just that Mark Spitz won 4 individual gold medals in two different strokes (as jaw-dropping as that is by itself). It's also that he set 4 World Records while doing it. Think back to your penultimate meet from the season when you were in your prime. How extraordinary would it have been if you set 4 personal records in each and every one of your 4 individual events? Now consider that Mark was 4 for 4 in swimming the fast recorded time in all of human history! My vocabulary fails me. The greatest individual performance in a single meet ever: hands down, no questions at all, Spitz in 72.

Who's the greatest swimmer of all time? Gee, that depends on the era. We can talk round and round that one, and it would be like 2 kids trying to resolve whether Mighty Mouse could take Batman.

And, how come we aren't even considering women? If we talk about Johnny Weismuller, even though his records are demonstrably slower than more modern swimmers, because he dominated his competition, what about Shane Gould, or Dawn Frasier, or Debbie Meyer, or Shirley Babashoff, or Mary T. Meagher, or Tracey Caukins, or Janet Evans, or Dara Torres? Suppose that we could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that dominant swimmers who are widely suspected of doping were in fact clean. (Cornelia Ender's father was a Colonel in the Stasi, the E. German internal security police, when she was competing. He told Sports Illustrated that at the time he asked her coach if she was on steroids, and the coach told him she was not. Those of us who grew-up in the West cannot immagine the kind of guts it would take to lie to a senior Stasi officer about what you are giving his daughter. Suppose we could prove Ender was the one clean athlete in the E. German system.) And, how do you compare dominant female athletes to male athletes, and adjust for societal expectations as to when female swimmers should retire and "settle down" compared to male swimmers?

Just a couple of random observations.


July 8th, 2002, 11:33 PM
Well, women are also another consideration. How do you compare Debbie Meyers and Dawn Fraster to people in later eras like Shane Gould and Shirley Babashoff and Janet Evans. ALso, hot IMer's like Tracey Caulkins who was the only women to set american records in all four strokes. A breastroker that also had a good fly and backstroke and freestyle. Mary T Meagher that dominated one stroke butterfly. Also, a note some of the best swimmers didn't fair that well at the olympics. Tim Shaw the sullivan award winner only won a silver at the 1976 olympics.

July 9th, 2002, 12:04 AM
Thinking about Natalie Couglin she had to compete against Michelle Kwan at the Sullvian awards. That is hard considerating that figure skating is more popular than swimming. And Kwan has has been at the top of her sport for while, even though she has not won gold at the olympics. And Ms. Couglin has to compete against Sarah Hughes another figure skater for the top female sports figure this season for the espy awards. I think that Ms Couglin will lost again but who knows. Maybe, if she wins several medals that are gold in 2004, she can beat the other sports figures even in popular sports like figure skating

Ion Beza
July 25th, 2002, 08:18 PM
Personally I rely on today's world records because they involve the biggest number of swimming participants ever:
today's competitions include the largest pool ever of the gifted to draw winners from, while in the past, champions might have won by default.

By this token, I believe that Tom Dolan (US), winner of 400 meter IM -which is the swimming equivalent of track's decathlon- in 1996 Altanta Olympics, and 2000 Sydney Olympics, a world record holder in 1994 and again in 2000 (with a 4:11.xx), is the greatest.

However his streak might come soon to a halt, given recent performances by youngsters Erik Vendt (US, who swam a 1500 meter free in 14:59.xx in 2000, a 15:06.xx untapered in 2002, and swam 400 meter IM in 4:13.xx in 2000 and again a 4:13.xx in 2002 but untapered this time) and Michael Phelps (US, who swam a 400 meter IM in 4:15.xx untapered in 2002).

If Tom Dolan overcomes another Olympics, the 2004 in Greece, then it will become even more obvious to non swimmers that he is great.

July 25th, 2002, 09:16 PM
There some truth to what you are saying. I think that back in the 1970's, the golden age of swimming in Southern California with Shirley and Sandra and Brian and Bruce and a Northern California import with John Naber to USC, the rest of the country which had a lot of good swimmers too, increased their programs since then. So swimming has no dominate region now and other foreign countries have also improved their programs making it more competitive than the past. The US Mens squad could not dominate the olympics today like they did in 1976. As for Tom Dolan, some of his health problems are caused by the amount of swimming he has done. Workout induced ashama and fatigue problems. He already has a poor windpipe naturally. But if one wants to win as much as he did and its the olympics, the risk are probably worth it for him. His size also gaves him an advantage. Swimming like Volleyball has become the land of the giants. Only little Diane Munz is a little on the short side 5'4" for a woman. In today's swimming, Munz is considered short.

May 27th, 2009, 06:09 PM
Just watching this movie on TCM you will see my old friend J W now this guy was a great swimmer. http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/index.jsp?cid=238769

May 28th, 2009, 03:52 PM
Like boxing, they are all great in their own way. It's not possible to pick just one