|Olympic medal record|
|Competitor for Egypt|
|Silver||1928 Amsterdam||10 metre platform|
|Bronze||1928 Amsterdam||3 metre springboard|
Farid Simaika was born on 12 June 1907 in Alexandria to one of the oldest Coptic families which can trace their ancestry to the middle of the 17th Century. The Simaikas were mostly magistrates and notables who prospered in the service of State and Church. His father, Bassili Bey Simaika, was director of Alexandria customs. Before moving to the United States in the 1920s, Farid Simaika was already a well-known Egyptian diving champion. Crowds flocked to the Cairo Club in the affluent Zamalek district in Cairo to watch him dive. He also held an Egyptian pilot's license.
In 1927 and representing the Ambassador Swimming Club of Los Angeles, Farid Simaika won the American national A.A.U. (Amateur Athletic Union) low board championship and came in second place to Pete Des Jardines in the American national fancy high diving competition. He then went on to win the American national fancy high board diving championships in 1930, 1931 and 1932. In 1931, he represented the Hollywood Athletic Club. Simaika’s performance in the 1932 American diving championship so impressed the Japanese that they invited him to compete in the Japanese high diving competition held in Tokyo around the year 1932. He won the Japanese title with ease.
Competing for Egypt in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic games, Farid Simaika achieved double Olympic glory for his homeland: He won the silver medal at platform high diving as well as the bronze medal at the springboard competition. Simaika’s silver medal was, however, associated with Hollywood-like drama. In fact, the judges of the men's high diving (platform) competition did announce Farid Simaika the winner of the gold medal, with the American Pete Des Jardines coming second. While the band played the Egyptian national anthem, “it was discovered” that Des Jardines “really had won the contest”, with Simaika second and Michael Galitzen, of Los Angeles, third! Although there was much excitement over the mistake, the judges failed to explain just how it all happened and no reasons were given for the change.”. The Charleston Gazette gives a more detailed account as to why Simaika had his gold medal withdrawn: “The finals in the men's diving saw one of the most curious incidents of the Olympiad. Simaika, the California-trained Egyptian plunger, finished with top points at 99.58, and the Egyptian flag was hoisted and the Egyptian national anthem sung for the first time of the meeting. But soon afterwards it was announced that a majority of the Judges by a vote of 5 to 4 had decided that Pete Des Jardines of Miami was the winner with the best general average of points for the eight dives”.
Having won two Olympic diving medals in addition to four A.A.U. diving titles, Farid Simaika went on to star in the various world's fair water shows from Chicago's Century of Progress to the Billy Rose Aquacades in Cleveland and New York. In 1934, Farid Simaika and fellow Olympic and A.A.U. diving champion Harold ‘Dutch’ Smith toured the world giving diving exhibitions. During the same year they also toured the USA, exhibiting at various local American water carnivals, as part of a national program “to help stimulate interest in swimming and diving”. Simaika also toured Europe diving with his good friend and Olympic nemesis Pete Des Jardines. Farid Simaika’s high diving act included a blind-folded tandem done with Harold ‘Dutch’ Smith (which they also performed in a Metro Goldwyn Mayer film entitled “Double diving”) and 2-a-day 66-foot tower dives at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The year 1935 saw Farid Simaika as a “special student” at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) as well as coach of the university’s diving team. In fact, The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration lists Simaika’s education as “two years of college”. Farid Simaika appeared in three Hollywood films: He did diving stunts in “Seas Beneath” (1931) directed by John Ford. He then starred, together with Harold ‘Dutch’ Smith, in Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s “Double Diving”, narrated by Pete Smith (1939). He finally starred in director Del Frazier’s “Water Sports” (1941) together with Ruth Nurmi and John Deering.
Farid Simaika married Mabel Van Den Akker, Hollywood society girl and daughter of a wealthy Hollywood jeweler in Hollywood on 11 February 1929. They divorced in 1931. In 1935, aged 27, Farid Simaika married Betty J. Wilson. When Simaika and Wilson filed an intention to wed notice, the marriage license bureau initially refused to grant them a marriage license because of doubt of whether Simaika was “an Egyptian or a Caucasian”. Existing California laws at the time prevented Caucasians from marrying “those of another race”. After consulting experts, the county counsel’s office in Los Angeles (California) ruled on 26 April 1935 that “an Egyptian is of the Caucasian race” and that “Egyptians were of the Hamitic and Semitic branch of the Caucasian race”, thereby removing the racial barrier to their marriage.
War service and tragic death
Farid Simaika enlisted in the American Army on 3 August 1942. The year 1943 saw Farid Simaika training at Lowry Field in Colorado as an assistant intelligence officer of a bombardment group “preparing for overseas action”. Later that year, he was second Lieutenant attached to a bomber unit in the US army air corps.
It is widely believed that Farid Simaika’s plane was shot down over Macassar (also spelt Makassar) in South Sulawesi, Indonesia (Sulawesi island being formerly known as Celebes island) in 1943 and that he was beheaded by Japanese soldiers. He was declared dead on 10 December 1945 and listed as missing in action.
Farid Simaika was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was promoted in rank to 1st Lieutenant for his bravery. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Ft Lauderdale, in April, 1982. A major road in Cairo's Heliopolis district is named after him.
1 The Salt Lake Tribune, 12 August 1928
2 The Charleston Gazette, 12 August 1928
5 The best in the southwest by Glenn R. Horton, Jr. Mosie Publications. Savage, Minnesota 55378
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