Host City: Stockholm, Sweden
Venue(s): Swimming Stadium, Djurgården Bay, Stockholm
Date Started: July 6, 1912
Date Finished: July 10, 1912
The defending Olympic champion was America’s [Charlie Daniels], who had won the gold medal in this event in both 1906 and 1908. At the beginning of 1912, Daniels also held the world record, having recorded 1:02.8 over 110 yards in New York on 15 April 1910. But Daniels had recently retired and did not compete at Stockholm. The favorite’s role in Stockholm probably fell to the German, [Kurt Bretting], who on 6 April 1912, had broken Daniels’ world record with a mark of 1:02.4.
The Americans were led by the little known Hawaiian, [Duke Kahanamoku]. Kahanamoku had not competed in the American championships, because he was so far from the mainland in an era when travel was not easy, but supposedly he had set record times in his native Hawaii.
Controversy occurred in the semi-finals, which were scheduled for the evening of 7 July, only a few hours after the quarter-finals. For some reason, the American contingent, Kahanamoku, [Ken Huszagh], and [Perry McGillivray], who had all qualified for the semi-finals, did not appear, thinking that the afternoon race had qualified them for the final, to be held on 9 July. But this was not the case. The swimming officials made allowances, however, and decided to hold an extra heat among the Americans and Italy’s [Mario Massa], who had missed the quarter-finals due to a “misunderstanding.” They ruled that the winner of the extra semi-final heat could advance to the final, if he posted a time faster than the 3rd-place swimmer in heat one. Kahanamoku proved his ability in this heat, and made certain that he would qualify by giving his best effort, which resulted in his equalling Bretting’s world record of 1:02.4. Huszagh was also advanced to the final, as his mark of 1:06.2 was equal to the 3rd-place time from heat one, which had been posted by Australia’s [Bill Longworth].
In the final, Kahanamoku took the lead early, and Bretting never challenged. Noting at the halfway mark that he had a comfortable lead, Kahanamoku eased up and still won by almost two metres, although with a slower time than he had posted in the semi-finals.