Dating back to 1934, prominent American athletes have been featured on Wheaties cereal boxes to coincide with its slogan, “The Breakfast of Champions.”
Over the years several swimmers have made their way onto the iconic box, specifically during Olympic years. It became one of the most coveted endorsements for Olympians.
Check out all of the swimmers who have appeared on a Wheaties box below:
Johnny Weissmuller — 1930s
Prior to athletes being featured as the cover, the legendary Johnny Weissmuller was among the athletes to appear in various advertisements on the box. Weissmuller, who won three Olympic gold medals at the 1924 Games in Paris and added two more in Amsterdam four years later, was actually on the box as Tarzan, who he portrayed in a series of films beginning in 1932.
Norman Ross — 1937
Ross, who won three Olympic gold medals at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium, was featured on the back of the box in 1937 with a guide on how to swim proper freestyle, labelled: “For speed — learn the crawl stroke.” He held world records in the 200, 400 and 800 free during his swim career before becoming a popular Chicago radio personality.
Esther Williams — 1951
Williams won multiple US National titles in the 1930s in freestyle and breaststroke, and was also the National AAU champion in the 100 free. After her plans to compete in the 1940 Olympic Games were dashed due to World War II, she became a successful businesswoman and lent her name to a line of swimming pools and retro swimwear. This line of pools ended up being the reason she was on the box.
Donna de Varona — 1967
In 1960, de Varona became the youngest swimmer ever to make the Olympic team at age 13. Four years later she won two gold medals in Tokyo in the 400 IM and 400 free relay, and ended up being featured by Wheaties in 1967. The San Diego native would go on to have a successful career as a sportscaster, including becoming the “youngest and one of the first women” on a national network at the age of 17 for ABC’s Wide World of Sports.
Mary T. Meagher — 1986
Mary T. Meagher‘s legendary 200 fly time of 2:05.96 in 1981 stood as the world record for 19 years and still remains the US 15-16 National Age Group Record. The year prior she was expected to compete at the 1980 Olympic Games before the American boycott.
She won three gold medals four years later at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and was featured on the box in 1986. The Louisville native went on to add a 200 fly bronze in 1988 and was a two-time World Champion in ’82 and ’86. Her swim from 39 years ago still ranks her #6 all-time among Americans and #22 overall.
Kim Rhodenbaugh — 1987
Kim Rhodenbaugh, who now goes by her married name Kim Lewallen, was a two-time World Championship silver medalist for the United States in 1982 in the 100 breaststroke and 400 medley relay and represented the stars and stripes at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She also won five National titles while in high school, and earned two NCAA titles while competing for the Texas Longhorns. Per her bio on the Texas website, she was honored on the box in 1987 “in honor of her national breaststroke titles.”
Tom Dolan & Amy Van Dyken — 1996
Dolan, who won six individual NCAA titles at Michigan in the 1990s and still has one of the fastest 500 free swims of all-time from ’94 (4:08.75), claimed Olympic gold in the 400 IM on home soil in ’96 before successfully defending the crown in Sydney. He also won back-to-back World titles in the event in ’94 and ’98.
Van Dyken had a legendary performance in Atlanta, winning four gold medals in the 50 free, 100 fly, and the 400 free and medley relays. She went on to win three more golds at the 1998 World Championships in Perth and helped the US women defend the two Olympic relay titles in Sydney.
In 2014 Van Dyken was in a severe ATV accident that severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebra. She was honored by the USOPC in November 2019 for the Jesse Owens Spirit Award.
Brooke Bennett — 2000
Bennett graced the Wheaties box after winning double Olympic gold in Sydney, repeating as the women’s 800 free champion while also winning the 400. Her 800 win in Atlanta four years earlier, done days after her grandfather’s death, was also the last Olympic race of Janet Evans‘ career.
Bennett was also the 1998 World Champion in the 800 free. She narrowly missed the Olympic team in 2004, finishing third at US Trials in the 800, and attempted a comeback for the 2016 Games in open water that ultimately fell short.
Michael Phelps — 2004, 2012, 2016
Not surprisingly, the greatest Olympian of all-time has been featured on the box three separate times. Phelps first was on the box after winning six gold and two bronze medals at the 2004 Games in Athens, and then was featured a second time in 2012 after setting the all-time record with 22 Olympic medals.
After his successful comeback in 2016, bringing his career total to 23 gold and 28 total medals in Rio, Phelps received the first-ever “Lifetime Achievement Honor” from Wheaties, putting him on the box for the third time.
— Wheaties (@wheaties) August 29, 2016
In case you were wondering, Phelps didn’t appear on a Wheaties box after his historic eight gold medal performance in 2008 because of his sponsorship with Kellogg’s. Instead, he appeared on Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes boxes.
Janet Evans — 2016
Evans was a dominant force during her career, winning Olympic gold medals in the 400 free, 800 free and 400 IM at the 1988 Games in Seoul. In 1992 she repeated in the 800 free and was the silver medalist in the 400.
The three-time LC World Champion set legendary records in the 400, 800 and 1500 free in the late 1980s, as they ending up standing for 18, 20 and 19 years, respectively.