The Olga Dorfner Vase
Bruce Wigo, the man voicing over the video, is the CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). Wigo is loved and respected among his peers as a leader and true ambassador of aquatic sports, perhaps one of the biggest. Wigo has one title he can call his own, one of which no one can compare. Wigo is “the professor” of aquatic sports. Spend 30 minutes with him, and you’ll learn more about swimming (and diving and water polo), than you could possibly imagine.
ISHOF holds and preserves aquatic sports history. Wigo is its caretaker, and it is an enormous responsibility, very expensive to maintain. ISHOF is a nonprofit organization supported entirely by donations. Go to their site and learn more about ISOF. Call Bruce Wigo directly. He’ll be happy to speak with you and delighted to share our sports’ most interesting historic moments. Above all else, if you can donate (or even become a member of the organization), please do. All donations are appreciated no matter how small.
Olga Dorfner was a Philadelphia beauty who brought glamour to the World of Swimming. She was featured in “Vanity Fair” and in the Sunday supplements as the cover girl bathing queen of her day. What Claire Galligan was to early distance swimming. Olga Dorfner was to the sprints. When the two met at the middle distances, all of New York and Philadelphia turned out to see the splash, each winning a 220 in their celebrated duels. Olga Dorfner set a World Record for the 200 meters freestyle in a 100 yard course at Alameda, California on July 21, 1918. That year she and Hall of Famer Duke Kahanamoku were picked as swimmers of the year in the year-end newspaper polls. Her 100 yard freestyle time of that year, 1:06.2, was also hailed as a World Record.
Miss Dorfner was the star of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, a remarkable group of lady swimmers that included Jack and Grace Kelly’s mother, Margaret, double Olympic winner and Hall of Famer Betty Becker, and 1917 Outdoor 100 yard freestyle champion Gertrude Artelt. This group of beauties, coached by Hall of Famer Fred Cady, a former circus strongman and artist, were the principal rivals of Hall of Famer L. deB. Handley’s New York Women’s Swimming Association. Frequently who won the big ones depended on whether the judges were home or neutral. Under the circumstances of this rivalry. Miss Dorfner cherished most her letters of congratulations, encouragement to break world records and coaching tips from deB. Handley.
Miss Dorfner at various times was this country’s fastest at 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 and 220 yards. She won Nationals in the 50 (1916) in 30.2 seconds, the 100 (1916, ’17, ’18) and the 220 and 440 in 1917. As with her chief rival, New York’s Claire Galligan, Olga Dorfner missed out on a chance at the Olympics due to war (1916) and matrimony (1920).
Wigo swam competitively in college, later volunteering to coach children’s water polo teams before entering the industry professionally.
He became a member of USA Water Polo in the early 1990s, when he was enlisted to help with the organization’s finances and increase membership. Though Wigo only intended to work for the group for six months, he stayed for 14 years. As executive director, he increased membership from less than 8,000 to more than 30,000, more than tripled the annual budget to over $3.5 million and raised over $1.5 million for the establishment of a water polo national training center in Los Alamitos, Calif.
After leaving USA Water Polo, Wigo joined ISHOF in 2005. He has served as president/CEO ever since. His current role is fitting, as his parents had been involved with ISHOF for years, taking a young Wigo on Christmas trips to its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
In 2009, Wigo self-published the book The Golden Age of Swimming: A Picture History of the Sport & Pools That Changed America. The book chronicles the pastime’s beginnings in ancient Rome, through the Victorian and into the 20th century.
Its artwork comes from a collection of photographs, postcards, news clippings and other history sources, painstakingly assembled by Wigo.
The Golden Age of Swimming also deals with the sport’s darker past, such as racial discrimination when large public pools first became popular.
A love for swimming also runs in the family. Wigo’s oldest son, Wolf, is a three-time Olympian and the head water polo coach at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
The International Swimming Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Our mission is to promote the benefits and importance of swimming as a key to fitness, good health, quality of life, and the water safety of children. We will accomplish this through operation of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, a dynamic shrine dedicated to the history, memory, and recognition of the famous swimmers, divers, water polo players, synchronized swimmers, and persons involved in life saving activities and education, throughout the world, whose lives and accomplishments will serve to inspire, educate, and be role models for all those who participate in the Hall of Fame’s experience and programs.