Greta Andersen, the oldest surviving Olympic swimming champion, passed away last month at the age of 96.
A native of Denmark, Andersen won gold in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1948 London Olympics. She also competed in three events at the 1952 Olympics, but without the full use of one leg due to a recent knee surgery, she failed to medal. Andersen finished fourth in the 4×100 free relay at the 1952 Olympics.
During her career in Europe, Andersen racked up nine individual Danish titles, several team titles, and four individual Scandinavian titles. She later moved to Long Beach, California, married record-setting Catalina Channel swimmer Tom Park, and enjoyed a successful marathon swimming career.
Andersen broke 18 world marathon records across her career. In 1956, she captured her first of seven Around Atlantic City Marathons. Andersen also won the 50-mile Lake Michigan race from Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin, finishing 10 miles ahead of the nearest competitor to claim the $25,000 prize money.
In 1958, Andersen became the first person to swim the Santa Catalina Channel both ways, which took 27 hours in total, as well as the first woman to cross the English Channel five times.
In 1960, she opened the Greta Andersen Swim School and started teaching kids how to swim. Four years later, she was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. In 1969, Anderson was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which also honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
She was inducted into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1964 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1969, and in 2015, the International Swimming Hall of Fame honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Andersen was the sixth-oldest surviving Olympic swimmer, non-champions included, behind Iris Cummings (born Dec. 1920), Bea Ballintijn (May 1923), Erna Herbers (May 1925), Lies Bonnier (July 1925), and Frank O’Neill (Sept. 1926).