Amazing Moments in Olympic History: Johnny Weissmuller

Nov. 18, 2009, 4:44 p.m. (ET)

Peter John "Johnny" Weissmuller is an Olympic freestyle swimming icon. He won five Olympic gold medals and set 67 world records. Weissmuller was born to German Swabian parents in Freidorf, in what is now Romania, and moved to the United States when he was 3. According to a biography, he claimed to have been born in Pennsylvania so he could represent the United States in the Olympic Games.

He began his swim training at the Illinois Athletic Club in Chicago and worked his way up to swimming fame. Weissmuller made history on July 9, 1922 by becoming the first person to swim the 100-meter event in less than one minute. He beat his own record two years later, on February 17, 1924, lowering his time from 58.6 to 57.4, a world record which would stand for a decade.

Weissmuller won three gold medals at the Paris 1924 Olympic Games for the 100 and 400 freestyle and the 4x200 relay. He also won an Olympic bronze medal with the U.S. Water Polo team and became a crowd favorite with Parisians when he put on a comedy diving act between races with his partner Stubby Kruger.

He won two more gold medals at the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic Games for the 100 freestyle and 4x200 relay. Even more impressive is that Weissmuller never lost a race in his career.

On top of his Olympic success, Weissmuller also became well known as an actor in the role of Tarzan in "Tarzan, the Ape Man" (the first of four Olympic medalists to play the part) and 12 subsequent Tarzan films over the next 16 years. He also created the role of Jungle Jim that was portrayed in a series of films, a role he would reprise multiple times. He has a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

Weissmuller was inducted as a charter member into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983. His contribution to freestyle swimming history and the world of motion pictures will live on forever.