It’s Been 116 Years Since the U.S. Has Had No 18 & Unders on Olympic Swim Team

Katie Ledecky is the youngest member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team (again). At 19, she is the oldest youngest-member of the U.S. Olympic swim team since 1900. She was the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic Team as well, but then was only 15.

The U.S.’s only swimmer in 1900 was Fred Hendschel. He was 2 days past his 21st birthday during the meet. His time of 3:42.0 in the 200 meter freestyle wasn’t good enough to advance out of the semifinals. The winner was Fred Lane of Australia in 2:25.2.

Hendschel’s other event was the 200 meter obstacle swim. The obstacle swim was only contested at the Olympics in 1900. It required competitors to climb over a pole, climb over a row of boats, and swim under a row of boats during their race. 12 swimmers entered and 10 advanced from the semis to the final. Hendeschel didn’t make the final finishing last in semifinal 3 in a time of 3:45.2. This time is impressive, as it’s only 3 seconds slower than his unimpeded 200 free time. Lane also won the obstacle event in 2:38.4.

I don’t know what technique Hendschel was using to go those times as front crawl was introduced in the US by Jam Handy (according to wikipedia) – though many dispute that Native Americans were using a similar technique long before it caught on to the competitive mainstream. Jam Handy’s wikipedia page includes the amazing sentence: “He would often wake up early and devise new strokes to give him an edge over other swimmers.”

Another novelty of the 1900 games was the underwater swim. The event was scored on a points system. One point for each second underwater and two points for each meter covered.  The winner was Charles Devendeville  of France who covered 60 meters and was under water 68.4 seconds. The U.S. didn’t enter anybody.

Other signs of the changing demographic of the sport? Anthony Ervin is the oldest U.S. male individual Olympic swimmer for nearly as long – since 1904.

Young Olympians:

Handy in 1904 was the first in a long line of 18 and under swimmers representing the US at the Olympics. Here’s a reference on one 18 or younger swimmer for every games since then (no promises on them being the youngest athlete at that games):

1904: Jam Handy, 18

1908: Harry Hebner, 16

1912: Perry McGillivray, 18

1916: No Olympics, WWI

1920: Warren Kealoha, 17

1924: Marth Norelius, 13

1928: Marian Gilman, 14

1932: Ralph Flanagan, 13

1936: Mavis Freeman, 17

1940: No Olympics, WWII

1944: No Olympics, WWII

1948: William Dudley, 17

1952: Jody Alderson, 17

1956: Nancy Ramey, 16

1960: Chris von Saltza, 16

1964: Claudia Kolb, 14

1968: Susan Pedersen, 14

1972: Jenny Wylie, 14

1976: Nicole Kramer, 14

1980: US Boycott

1984: Michele Richardson, 15

1988: Beth Barr, 16

1992: Anita Nall, 16

1996: Amanda Beard, 14

2000: Michael Phelps, 15

2004: Dana Vollmer, 16

2008: Elizabeth Beisel, 15

2012: Katie Ledecky, 15

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Wasn’t Katie Hoff the youngest in 2004 at 15?


Ok, the obstacle swim sounds kind of awesome…like American Ninja Warrior meets the swim team. Sign me up for the 1900 games!

Lennart van Haaften

I don’t know about that, apparently all participants of that Games have died.


Happy birthday Katie McLaughlin! She turns 19 today and would’ve should’ve could’ve been the youngest on the team.
Oh well, have a great & safe summer! Looking forward to 2020.

Jiggs – close! Her Birthday isn’t actually until this Saturday. Here’s her bio:

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