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Swimming at the 1896 Athina Summer Games

1896 Summer Games: Next Summer Games

Sports:

Host City: Athina, Greece
Date Started: April 11, 1896
Date Finished: April 11, 1896
Events: 4

Participants: 13 (13 men and 0 women) from 4 countries
Youngest Participant: HUN Alfréd Hajós (18 years, 70 days)
Oldest Participant: AUT Paul Neumann (20 years, 304 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): HUN Alfréd Hajós (2 medals)
Most Medals (Country): GRE Greece (6 medals)

Overview

The swimming events took place in the [Bay of Zea] off the coast of Piraeus. All four events were conducted in one day and because of this, no amphitheatre was conducted, only a few temporary buildings. However, as many as 20,000 spectators were listed as watching the swimming events on this Saturday. King George I arrived at about 1030 and watched the races, which began at 1100.

The water was noted to be frigid, between 12-14° C. (53-57° F.) with the air temperature 18° C. (64° F.). One story, which is most likely apocryphal, involved the only American swimmer entered, Gardner Williams. Supposedly, he jumped into the water for the start of the 100 metres, and then scrambled back to shore, yelling out, "Jesus Christ, it's freezing." The story was reported by American team member Tom Curtis in an article he wrote 36 years later. However, it is highly unlikely that Williams did not venture into the water until the day of the races. Possibly it occurred during training. Secondly, Williams could not have scrambled back to shore, as the 100 metre freestyle began out in the Bay and the swimmers swam towards the shore.

Medalists