The Shortest Male Olympic Swimming Medalists

A few days ago, this article listed the tallest male swimmers to win medals at the Olympic Games.

There is no doubt that swimming is a sport for tall athletes. According to the World Health Organization, “The expected average height of a healthy population should be 163 cm for women and 176.5 cm for men.” In fact, it would be very difficult to find Olympic medalists below, say, 1.70 m tall for women and 1.80m for men.

But there are some of them. And it might be interesting to analyze where they come from and which events they have been racing in. Instagram’s Swimming Stats page has published two lists of the shortest Olympic swimming medal winners in men’s individual events, the first one since 1960 and the second one in the modern era of swimming (since 2000).

Australian Brad Cooper is the shortest one, being 1.60 m tall (5 ft 3 in). He won a gold medal in the 400 freestyle at the 1972 Olympics. In that race he originally finished second, but was later awarded the gold medal after the winner, American Rick DeMont, an asthmatic, was disqualified after his post-race urinalysis tested positive for traces of the banned substance ephedrine contained in his prescription asthma medication, Marax.

Brazilian Ricardo Prado, a former world record holder in the 400 IM, was a silver medal winner in 1984 being 1.68 m tall (5 ft 6 in).

In the modern era of swimming, Japanese swimmers dominate the list. Tomomi Morita, a bronze medalist in the 100 backstroke in 2004, is the only male swimmer shorter than 1.70 m to win an Olympic medal since the 2000 Olympics.

In fact, since 2000, the seven shortest medal winners in men’s swimming are Japanese. Tomoru Honda won the silver medal in the 200 butterfly at the 2021 Olympics and was the shortest male swimmer to make the podium in Tokyo, being 1.72 m tall (5 ft 8 in).

Unsurprisingly, there are no 50, 100 and 200 freestyle swimmers on this list. These are very physical events, and the swimmers have to be very strong and powerful. The tallest swimmers tend to have larger and longer hands and feet, and this is not only an advantage, but it is essential in those events.

In contrast, events like 100 and 200 breast, and 400 IM, are more technique-based. Especially breaststroke, which has more emphasis through the middle of the hip, as opposed to the length of the body, is more necessary in freestyle and backstroke. That’s why nine of the 15 swimmers on this list won Olympic medals in breaststroke and medley events.

As you can see, being short is not a deal-breaker for someone who wants to become an elite swimmer. It is true that, on average, an Olympic swimming medalist is taller than an ordinary person. But, as in any sport, there are exceptions. Morita, being 1.69 m tall, won an Olympic medal in 2004 in the 100 backstroke, the same event that Matt Grevers, one of the tallest swimmers to ever win Olympic medals (2.03 m), won medals in 2008 and 2012.

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katie’s gator arc
10 days ago

patiently waiting for the list of shortest female swimmers so i can feel good about myself when i swim 🥲

runnergal42
Reply to  katie’s gator arc
9 days ago

Me too haha. At 5’3 I was always the shortest swimmer at every meet.

katie’s gator arc
Reply to  runnergal42
9 days ago

I’D ALWAYS GET TOWERED LIKE 😭😭😭

Terry Watts
Reply to  katie’s gator arc
9 days ago

I’m patiently waiting for the list of fattest and oldest so I can feel even worse! LOL!

Anonymoose
Reply to  Terry Watts
9 days ago

Felipe Lima for the win! Honorable mention Marco Koch

Monty Hopkins
10 days ago

Paging Jon Sieben (1.73 m / 5 ft. 8 in.) – 1984 Gold Medal 200 Butterfly.

Jon beat World Record holder Michael Gross (2.00 m / 6 ft. 7 in.)

JoeBob
Reply to  Monty Hopkins
8 days ago

Sieben, age 17, was closer to 5-7 at the time and grew another inch afterwards.

N P
9 days ago

Brad Cooper was not only the Olympic gold medalist in 1972, but also just the 2nd person to ever break 4:00 in the 400, going 3:58.7, in the same race that Rick DeMont became the 1st. He’s a legend. I had no idea he was only 5’3”. Incredible.

Meeeeeee
Reply to  N P
9 days ago

Maybe a little difficult to see in this photo (see link below) but I don’t think he was 5’3″. He is standing down from Rick Demont but guessing on the award stand height difference I would say he was similar height to Demont.

https://media.gettyimages.com/photos/swimming-1972-summer-olympics-australia-bradford-cooper-usa-rick-and-picture-id485912091

Big mac #1
Reply to  Meeeeeee
9 days ago

He got that robe

N P
Reply to  Meeeeeee
9 days ago

Good reference picture. Yeah, there’s no way he could be 5’3″ based on that picture because Rick was not a small dude. Cooper’s still a legend though, even if he was 6’8″!

ecoach
Reply to  N P
9 days ago

He could be if Dumont was about 6 feet. The other guy is a head taller standing on a similar platform. Also he is closest to the picture making him seem bigger.

Reid
9 days ago

I’m extremely skeptical that Brad Cooper was 5’3”. The only sources seem to be his Wikipedia and “olympedia” articles that have that as his listed height alongside a listed weight of 159 lbs—23 lbs heavier than Muggsy Bogues, and actual very strong 5’3”. No articles I’ve seen mention his height, which one would think would be very much notable. I think we can debunk this one and give Mr Prado his flowers.

Last edited 9 days ago by Reid
Chest Rockwell
9 days ago

I know what the bio says, but Erik V was not 5’11” even on his tippy-toes. Dude was the hardest worker you ever saw though.

Coach Tom
Reply to  Chest Rockwell
9 days ago

Yeah, Erik Vendt is definitely one of the first American swimmers I think of when I think of smaller Olympians. David Berkoff isn’t very tall either.

HulkSwim
Reply to  Chest Rockwell
8 days ago

If Erik is 5’11”, then I’m 6’3″…

(I’m not 6’3″)

Chad
9 days ago

Short Kings, unite!

tea rex
9 days ago

At the Olympics, I heard commentary about Bruno Fratus being a “little guy”. The dude is 6’2″, but after looking it up, he’s actually the shortest sprint medalist since at least 2000.

And I posted this on the tallest article, but the shortest podiums since 2000:
2000 200 breast: Fioravanti 1.79 (5’10”), Parkin 1.85 (6’1″), Rummolo 1.80 (5’11”)
2016 400 IM: Hagino 1.77 (5’9.5″), Kalisz 1.93 (6’4″), Seto 1.74 (5’8.5″)

Just give the trophy to the condors already
9 days ago

I don’t see Matt Grevers on that list

Swimmerfromjapananduk

Why would he be on it? The dudes massive

Ledecky will go under 8 minutes in the 800
Reply to  Swimmerfromjapananduk
9 days ago

Buddy you’re so gullible