David Larson

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For the Paralympic athlete, see David Larson (athlete).
David Larson
Personal information
Full name David Erwin Larson
National team  United States
Born (1959-06-25) June 25, 1959 (age 55)
Jesup, Georgia
Height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight 174 lb (79 kg)
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle
College team University of Florida

David Erwin Larson (born June 25, 1959) is an American former competition swimmer who is an Olympic gold medalist and former world record-holder. Larson was notable for his success as a member of American relay teams in international competition – and for setting two world records in the same event on the same day.

Early years[edit]

Larson was born in the small town of Jesup, Georgia in 1959.[1][2] He started swimming as an age-group swimmer in 1963-64.[3] He attended the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, where he swam for the Bolles high school swim team.[3][4] He graduated from Bolles in 1977.[4]

College swimming career[edit]

Larson accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he swam for the Florida Gators swimming and diving team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) competition under coach Randy Reese from 1978 to 1981.[5] Larson won two NCAA championships at Florida in the 800-yard freestyle relay (1979, 1981), and setting American and NCAA records.[5] He finished second in the 200-yard freestyle to Rowdy Gaines of Auburn in 1981, but then out-swam Gaines on the final leg of the 800-yard freestyle relay to claim the NCAA championship in the relay. Larson earned twenty-one All-American honors and was national record holder in the 400-yard freestyle relay.[5]

Larson graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1987,[6] and was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great."[7]

International swimming career[edit]

Larson was first selected for the U.S. national swim team for the 1979 Pan American Games held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In what would become a regular match-up, Larson earned a silver medal in the men's 200-meter freestyle for his second-place finish (1:52.24) behind American teammate Rowdy Gaines (1:51.22).[8] Two days later, Larson and Gaines combined with fellow Americans Brian Goodell and Kris Kirchner to win a Pan Am gold medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay (7:31.28).[9]

He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1980, as a member of the U.S. team in the men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay, but was unable to compete because U.S. President Jimmy Carter organized the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics to be held in Moscow in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.[3] After completing his college career in 1981, Larson quit swimming, only to return to competition a year later.[10] Larson continued his training with the program that coach Randy Reese had created for post-college swimmers in Gainesville, Florida.[3]

At the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, he again won a gold medal as a member of the winning U.S. team in the men's 200-meter freestyle relay, together with Richard Saeger, Bruce Hayes and Rowdy Gaines (7:23.63).[11]

Larson represented the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California.[2] In the preliminary heats of the men's 4×200-meter freestyle relay, he and U.S. teammates Geoff Gaberino, Bruce Hayes and Richard Saeger set a new world record of 7:18.87.[12][13] But the new record was short-lived.[13] Later that same afternoon, Larson won the gold medal in the event final of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, together with his American teammates Mike Heath, Jeff Float and Bruce Hayes, by defeating the Michael Gross-anchored West German team by four one-hundredths (0.04) of a second, and setting yet another new world record of 7:15.69 in the process.[14][15][16] The American media dubbed the four swimmers the "Gross Busters," a play on the popular 1984 movie Ghostbusters.[17]

In the aftermath of the 1984 Olympics, Larson retired from competitive swimming at the age of 25.[18]

Life after swimming[edit]

After the post-Olympic national celebrations, Larson was offered an opportunity to work in sports marketing in New York City. His early professional career involved dealings with agents, creating event sponsorships, and negotiating athlete contracts. He spent the next decade working in sports marketing, then in television. He worked with NBC on its Olympic broadcasts, including the 2005 Winter Games.[3]

Larson and his wife Kitty, a Miami lawyer, have a son.[3]

World records[edit]

Men's 4x200-meter medley relay

Time Date Event Location
7:18.87 July 30, 1984 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California
7:15.69 July 30, 1984 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California

See also[edit]


  1. ^ databaseOlympics.com, Athletes, David Larson. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Athletes, David Larson. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Gator Great David Larson's 1984 Olympic Triumph Revisited," GatorZone.com (August 8, 2013). Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  4. ^ a b The Bolles School, Athletics, Bolles Olympic Medalists. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Florida Swimming & Diving 2014–15 Media Supplement, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 78, 79, 81, 84, 87, 101 (2014). Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  6. ^ University of Florida Alumni Directory, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2000).
  7. ^ F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  8. ^ "18-carat performance: U.S. wins 10 gold medals," St. Petersburg Times, p. 1C (July 3, 1979). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  9. ^ United Press International, "Vasallo Sets Swim Record At Pan Am," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 1-C (July 7, 1979). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  10. ^ "Scouting; Happy Return For Swimmer," The New York Times (August 4, 1984). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  11. ^ Associated Press, "Pan Am Games," Santa Cruz Sentinel, p. C-4 (August 19, 2015). Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  12. ^ Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay Round One. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Associated Press, "Add 3 / U.S. gold total at 9," The Indiana Gazette, p. 14 (July 31, 1984). Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  14. ^ Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay Final. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  15. ^ Knight News Service, "U.S. Swimmers Set World Relay Mark," The Toledo Blade, p. 18 (July 31, 1984). Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  16. ^ Frank Litsky, "U.S. swimmers win two more golds," The New York Times (July 31, 1984). Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  17. ^ Craig Neff, "The U.S. Is Back . . . And How!," Sports Illustrated (August 13, 1984). Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  18. ^ Associated Press, "Former Gator swimmer struck by Olympic patriotism," The Gainesville Sun, p. 3E (August 26, 1984). Retrieved March 4, 2015.


External links[edit]

  • David Larson – Olympic athlete profile at Sports-Reference.com