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Ragnhild Hveger

Full name: Ragnhild Tove Hveger (-Andersen)
Gender: Female
Born: December 10, 1920 in Nyborg, Syddanmark, Denmark
Died: December 1, 2011
Affiliations: Helsingør Svømmeklub, Helsingør (DEN) / DKG, København (DEN)
Country: DEN Denmark
Sport: Swimming

Medals: 1 Silver (1 Total)

Biography

Ragnhild Hveger was considered as the “female [Johnny Weissmuller]” and as “the most extraordinary swimmer ever” by many swimming historians. Unlike Weissmuller, she did not get much media attention, because her prime was during World War II. Born to the family of a train pilot, who had strong ties with the Danish National Socialist Workers Party, she took up competitive swimming in 1932 at the age of 12 and made her international début at the 1936 Olympics, where she won silver in the 400 m freestyle, at age 15. Hveger next competed at the 1938 European Championships in London, where she won golds in the 100 and 400 freestyles and 4x100 free relay and was nicknamed as “The Golden Torpedo” by The Times after winning the 400 m freestyle event by nearly half the pool’s length, beating runner-up Dutch Rie van Veen by nearly 20 seconds.

Hveger’s best years were during World War II. Between 1936-43 she set 44 world records, mostly in freestyle, in distances between 200 to 1500, but also one in the 200 m backstroke, and in 1941 alone, she set 19 world records. However, the later part of her career was marred by her family’s close association with the Nazis. Her father had risen to a high rank in the Danish National Socialist Workers Party and her brother was a volunteer with the Waffen SS fighting on the Eastern Front. Her popularity was often used as a propaganda tool by the Nazis, which resulted in her marrying a German officer in 1943, retirement from sports, and moving to Kiel to work as a swimming instructor.

After the war, her popularity had declined so much that Hveger had to work as a swimming instructor in Sweden and only returned to Denmark in 1948 with the intention of competing at the 1948 Olympics. But Danish Olympic Committee put her amateur status in question, referring to her work as a swimming instructor and put her on a two-year probation to restore her amateur status. Thus, Hveger competed at her second Olympics only in 1952, where she led the 400 m freestyle final thru 300 metres, but finished only fifth. She also helped the Danish 4x100 m relay team to a fourth place finish. Hveger finally retired from competitive swimming in 1954, all her world records still unbroken, and later led a secluded life, very rarely making public appearances and giving interviews. Hveger was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) in 1966 and in 1996 was named Danish female athlete of the 20th century by the Danish Olympic Committee. In 1999 she was named one of the top 10 swimmers of the 20th century, either male or female, by Swimming World magazine. The other nine selected had won 29 Olympic gold medals between them, while Hveger was the only one with none.

Results

Games Age City Sport Event Team NOC Rank Medal
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Women's 100 metres Freestyle Denmark DEN 8 h2 r2/3
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Women's 400 metres Freestyle Denmark DEN 2 Silver
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Women's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay Denmark DEN 7
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Women's 100 metres Freestyle Denmark DEN 6 h1 r2/3
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Women's 400 metres Freestyle Denmark DEN 5
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Women's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay Denmark DEN 4

Women's 100 metres Freestyle

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark Semi-Finals Heat Two 8 1:14.0
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark Round One Heat Four 1 Q 1:09.6
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark Semi-Finals Heat One 6 1:07.7
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark Round One Heat Five 2 Q 1:08.6

Women's 400 metres Freestyle

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank T 1cT 1cR 2cT 2cR 3cT 3cR 100-200m 200-300m 300-400m
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark Final 2 5:27.5
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark Semi-Finals Heat Two 1 Q 5:33.7
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark Round One Heat One 1 Q/OR 5:28.0
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark Final 5 5:16.9 1:11.7 1 2:32.8 1 3:56.2 =5 1:21.1 (4) 1:23.4 (6) 1:20.7 (5)
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark Semi-Finals Heat Two 4 Q 5:19.5
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark Round One Heat Two 1 Q 5:19.6

Women's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay

Games Age City Sport Team NOC Phase Unit Rank T ET ER
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark DEN Final 7
1936 Summer 15 Berlin Swimming Denmark DEN Round One Heat Two 3
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark DEN Final 4 1:07.0 4:36.2 4
1952 Summer 31 Helsinki Swimming Denmark DEN Round One Heat One 3 1:06.2 4:36.4 3
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