The 1920 Olympic Games

The 1920 Olympic games took place in Antwerp, Belgium had many American achievements. Specifically, the U.S.’s swimming team. Throughout the events many new records were made and old stigmas were beat.

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The 1920 summer games were the first to take place after World War One giving new opportunities to the new decade. These games were the first that the U.S. allowed women to compete in swimming. There were three events that were available or women, the 100m freestyle, 400m freestyle, and the 4 x 100m freestyle relay. Ethelda Bleibtrey was one of the women on the team and participated in all three events. She took gold in both the 100m freestyle and the 400m freestyle. According to Wigo (2018), “America’s Ethelda Bleibtrey, whom sports writers called the ‘Babe Ruth’ of swimming, won all three in world record time…” Ethelda Bleibtrey set records in every event she participated in (p. 1). Also, for both evens the podium was completely made up of the U.S. team. However, Bleibtrey did not only set time records, she also was the first American women to win a gold medal in swimming and was the first woman in the world to ever win three gold medals. The U.S.’s achievements did not stop there though. In 4 x 100m freestyle relay the U.S. also claimed gold and broke the current world and Olympic records for time. Their time at 5.11.6 (in minutes) crushed the competition, while the records before that were 5.52.8 set by Great Britain. Bleibtrey went professional after the games and later became a coach.

The men’s team also claimed many victories throughout the different swimming events. The U.S. claimed both gold and silver in the 400m freestyle and 100m backstroke. They also won gold in the 1500m freestyle, 4 x 200m freestyle relay, and all three medals in the 100m freestyle. Norman Ross won the gold of both the 1500m freestyle and the 400m freestyle. He “… was regarded as being the best swimmer in the world by 1920.” (Wigo, 2018, p. 1). Throughout Ross’s career, he set more than ten world records and won many championships and events. (“Norman Ross”, 2018).

Ross and Bleibtrey were not the only swimming stars of the 1920 games. Duke Kahanamoku from Hawaii was also well known for his achievements. He won the gold for the 100m freestyle for the second time in the 1920 games and also was part of the team, along with Ross, that won the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. He would continue his Olympic career for over ten more years.

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