Today in Swimming History, September 21st: Nesty Stuns Biondi and World in Memorable 100 Fly Race

In 1988, the population of Suriname was about half a million people, with just one Olympic pool located in the entire nation. Meanwhile, Matt Biondi from the United States had already claimed multiple world records and Olympic hardware of his own. However, one standout swimmer from Suriname was all it took to rob Biondi of a gold medal and an Olympic Record in the 100 meter butterfly at the Seoul Olympics.

Anthony Nesty, only 20 years old at the time, swam to a first place finish  in the 100 meter butterfly in a new Olympic standard time of 53.00, just one one-hundredth of a second ahead of superstar Matt Biondi. By doing so, Anthony Nesty became the first black athlete ever to ever win a gold medal in swimming, and to this day, remains the only Surinamese athlete to ever win an Olympic medal. Following his victory at Seoul, Nesty would go on to swim for the Florida Gators between 1989-1992 for then-coach Randy Reese. Nesty would win three consecutive NCAA titles in the 100 yard butterfly, and would also claim titles in the 200 yard butterfly and the 400 yard medley relay.

Anthony Nesty would finally retire shortly after his graduation from Florida, and he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1998 as an “Honor Swimmer”.

Happy Birthdays

  • 2008 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, and 2007 World Champion in the 50 free, Ben Wildman-Tobriner turns 29 today.
  • Happy 26th birthday to Dutch star Femke Heemskerk. Her swimming resume is a long one, but includes a gold at the 2008 Olympics in the 400 free relay, a silver in 2012 in the same, and nine World Championship medals as well.
  • Happy 36th birthday to 2000 British Olympian Simon Militis, who was 19th in the 200 back at the Sydney Olympics.
  • Happy posthumous 116th birthday to 1920 Olympian “Stubby Kruger“. He swam at the Antwerp Games in the 100 back, placing 5th for the Americans, and then retired at the then-appropriate age of 22. Kruger died in 1965 at 68 years old.
  • Happy posthumous 84th birthday to 1952 Olympian Dick Cleveland. Cleveland was a three-time NCAA Champion and swam the 100 free for the Americans at the 1952 Olympics. He was one of the pioneers of incorporating weight training into his swimming regiment.

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10 years ago

He also won gold at the 1991 Worlds in the 100m fly and bronze in the same event in Barcelona. Now he’s the associate head coach of the men’s and women’s teams at UF working side by side with the coach who brought him to the top of the Olympic podium.

10 years ago

The vid is disabled so I watched it on YuTube, but I’ll never forget watching this in ’88; I was so focused on Biondi and his bad gliding finish that I didn’t even notice Nesty, 3 lanes over, sneaking in for the gold!! Completely shocking.

Reply to  liquidasset
10 years ago

I didn’t watch it as I was too young, but seeing the youtube video, Wowww….. What an awful awful finish by Biondi. The gold was clearly his, until the shockingly bad finish.

Anymore examples of super bad finish that cost the swimmer gold?
(and no..Cavic’s finish in 2008 wasn’t nearly as bad).

10 years ago

Great story Swimswam and great video!

About Varun Shivakumar

Varun Shivakumar hails from Hoffman Estates, IL and swam competitively for 16 years. He swam both backstroke events at Northwestern University, and ranks fifth in the school’s All-time performances list in the 200 yard backstroke. Representing NASA Wildcat Aquatics, he also competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, NE …

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