Esther Williams, Silver Screen Swimming Champion, Dies at 91

Esther Williams, a swimming champion who parlayed her success in the pool into a Hollywood career, has died. She was 91 years old. ABC News reports that she died in her sleep early this morning according to her publicist Harlan Boll.

In 1939, representing the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Williams claimed her first gold medal in the 100m freestyle at the AAU Championships (which was National Championships during that era). According to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), Williams won in 1:09, a time that was faster than all except one of the winners over the following six years.

William was a clear favorite to medal at the 1940 Olympic Games, but they were cancelled because of World War II.

William wasn’t one to live with disappointment for very long, and she quickly used her swimming skills to land a screen test with another swimming and Hollywood superstar, Johnny Weissmuller. The gig was for the 1940 San Francisco World’s Fair Aquacade, and she got it. The ISHOF, swimming’s keeper of history, reports that Weissmuller wanted a tall star to work with, and that’s why he picked her. William quickly showed her skill and stage presence, winning the San Francisco crowd, and a star was born.

William’s film career developed into one of the biggest of her era, and she starred opposite screen legends such as Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Howard Keel, Ricardo Montalban, Red Skelton, and many more.

William’s contribution to the sport is immeasurable as she inspired an entire generation to swim. She’s one of the rare swimmers who truly leapt from the sport’s limelight into the world of Hollywood celebrity.


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Esther Williams was an idol of mine. My mother showed me my first movie of hers when I was 5. My cousins and I played mermaids in the pool every summer and I was always Esther. Her talent and charisma shined brightly in the pool and on the screen.

cynthia curran

No ,Esther Williams, no synchronized swimming. Anyway, diver Sammy Lee also with Los Angeles Athletic Club winning I believe in 1952. Those all flims of Williams were kind of fun.

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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