Bowen Stassforth

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Bowen Dow Stassforth
Bowen Stassforth 1952.jpg
Stassforth in 1952
Personal information
Full nameBowen Dow Stassforth
National team United States
Born(1926-08-07)August 7, 1926
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedNovember 22, 2019(2019-11-22) (aged 93)
Rancho Palos Verdes, California, U.S.
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight173 lb (78 kg)
Sport
SportSwimming
StrokesBreaststroke
College teamUniversity of Iowa

Bowen Dow Stassforth (August 7, 1926 – November 22, 2019) was an American competition swimmer who won a silver medal in the 200 m breaststroke at the 1952 Olympics and set two world records in the 200-yard (long course) breaststroke.[22][23] and one world record in the 100 meter (long course) breaststroke[24]

Biography[edit]

Born in Los Angeles on August 7, 1926,[25] Stassforth was an eight-time[26] All-American in swimming at the University of Iowa. At the conclusion of his career in 1952, he concurrently held 16[27] national breaststroke records in distances from 200 yards to 500 meters in 20 yard, short course and long course pools. He was also the 1952 Iowa AAU Athlete of the Year and Iowa AAU's nominee for the James E. Sullivan Award.[28]

In his early life, Bowen had an intense fear of water, which was the result of having his head put under water by his caretaker. After his parents discovered this, swimming lessons commenced with Thelma Payne[29][30]at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. His athletic career as a swimmer began at Los Angeles High School (1942-44) as well as the Hollywood Athletic Club during which time he finished second at the 1943 California State Meet in the 200 yard breaststroke to his teammate Harry Messenheimer. In August 1944, while still in high school, Bowen enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His vision throughout his life was poor. Consequently, in order to join the Navy, he memorized the eye chart for his initial physical. During basic training, his vision problems were discovered by his superiors. As a result, he was subsequently assigned to teach swimming and water survival skills to enlisted sailors on North Island in San Diego. He was honorably discharged in 1946.[31]

Bowen swam in the era when the accepted arm motion of the breaststroke was optional with either the contemporary underwater breaststroke or the over the water arm motion now known as the butterfly. The leg movement was the frog kick. In 1953,[32] the stroke was bifurcated into the breaststroke and the butterfly using a dolphin kick. As a result, any records he held were subsequently wiped off the record books.

At his first AAU National Outdoor Championship meet in 1945, representing Fleet Air Wing 14, he placed second in the 200-meter breaststroke.[33] [34] The next year in 1946, he placed sixth in the both the AAU National Indoor and Outdoor Championship 220y/200M breaststroke behind Joe Verdeur, Charles Keating and his future coach, James Counsilman.[35][36] He enrolled at the University of Iowa for the 1947-1948 school year and was coached by both David Armbruster and his assistant coach James Counsilman. He was not allowed to compete as a freshman, however, due to conference eligibility rules at that time.[37] He did, however, participate in the U.S. Olympic Trials in July 1948 placing seventh in the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:47.7.[38] The following year, Bowen moved up the standings finishing third in the AAU Outdoor Championships 200 m breaststroke behind Keith Carter and Joe Verdeur the previous years' Olympic silver and gold medalists.[39]

His first international competition came in 1950 as part of the American national swim team in several dual meets held in Japan.[40] This was the first time the American swim team had defeated Japan on Japanese soil.[41] At the dual meet in Toyko, Bowen set the world record in the 100 m breaststroke(long course) in 1:09.4 barely edging out his teammate Robert Brawner.[42] Later that year, he was second in the National AAU Outdoor Championships in the 220 yard breaststroke to Robert Brawner.[43]

In 1951, he won a bronze medal in the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:47.6[44] and a gold in the medley relay at the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires. At the 1951 National AAU Outdoor Championships in the 200 m breaststroke, Bowen was second to John Davies but ahead of Robert Brawner, third and Jerry Holan, fourth.[45]

After a fourth place finish behind John Davies, Jerry Holan, and Robert Brawner at the NCAA finals in 1952 in the 200 yard Breaststroke[46], his Big Ten rival and friend, John Davies tipped off Bowen that his training regimen needed to be improved with several adjustments. As a result of these training adjustments, he qualified first overall at the 1952 US Olympic Trials beating both Brawner and Holan and breaking Joe Verdeur's American citizen record[47] with a time of 2:36.0 in the 200 m breaststroke.[48]

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, he qualified for the finals of the 200 m breaststroke. While on the starting blocks of the finals, the cold air caused his muscles to tense up. In order to counter act this, he purposely false started using the short time in the water to loosen back up. Back up on the blocks, he was careful not to false start again. When the race was over, he placed second losing by 0.3 of a second to his Big Ten rival and friend John Davies of the University of Michigan who represented Australia. His time of 2:34.7 set a new American record for the 200 m breaststroke (long course).[49][50][51] Herbert Klein the world record holder in the 200 m breaststroke in both short and long courses was third. Davies, Stassforth, and Klein were the only three swimmers to better 2:35 in history in the 200 m breaststroke (long course) prior to the bifurcation of the stroke in 1953.

He finished his career later that month as the National AAU Outdoor Champion and the American record holder in the 220-yard breaststroke (a distance 3 feet 9 inches longer than the Olympic final) with the same time of 2:34.7 as the Olympic final.[52] After the race, Bowen remarked, "Up till now I never felt that I had done my best. Now I'm satisfied. That was it."[53] Although this was the fastest (pre-1953 bifurcation of the breaststroke) 220 y breaststroke (long course) in history, it stood only as the American record since FINA only recognized the 200 y and 200 m distances for world record purposes.

Bowen was inducted into the University of Iowa Hall of Fame in 1996.[54] Charles Roeser, the chairman of the U.S. Olympic men’s swimming committee in a letter to his coach David Armbruster, called Bowen “one of the most cooperative athletes I have ever known in thirty years of teaching and coaching.” He also called him “America’s greatest breaststroke champion, but more than that, a real American and gentleman whose conduct is a worthy example for others to follow.”[55][56] He died at his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, California on November 22, 2019 at the age of 93.[57]

Records[edit]

Concurrent Breaststroke Records held in 1952
Date Distance Pool Time Location Record/Prior Recordholder(Time)|
20 June 1952 200 yd (180 m) 20 yard 2:15.8 Iowa City, Iowa American / Robert Brawner (2:16.6) [58]
23 February 1952 200 yd (180 m) long pool 2:19.7 Iowa City, Iowa World / Keith Carter (2:24) [59]
20 June 1952 200 m (660 ft) 20 yard 2:30.5 Iowa City, Iowa American / Dave Seibold (2:38.5)[60]
1 August 1952 200 m (660 ft) 50 meter 2:34.7 Helsinki,Finland American / John Davies (2:35.8)[61]
20 June 1952 220 yd (200 m) 20 yard 2:30.5 Iowa City, Iowa American / Dave Seibold (2:38.5)[62]
27 August 1952 220 yd (200 m) 55 yard 2:34.7 Newark, New Jersey American / Jerry Holan (2:38)[63][64]
20 June 1952 300 yd (270 m) 50 yard 3:39.9 Iowa City, Iowa American / Keith Carter (3:50)[65]
23 April 1950 400 yd (370 m) 20 yard 5:16.8 Cedar Rapids, Iowa American / James Werson (5:30.7)[66]
2 May 1950 400 yd (370 m) 25 yard 5:14.0 Iowa City, Iowa American / John Higgans (5:15.7)[67]
2 May 1950 400 yd (370 m) long pool 5:13.8 Iowa City, Iowa American / [68]
23 April 1950 400 m (440 yd) 20 yard 5:33.8 Cedar Rapids, Iowa American[69]
11 June 1952 400 m (1,300 ft) 25 yard 5:13.5 Iowa City, Iowa American / John Higgans (5:44.8)[70] [71]
29 February 1952 400 m (440 yd) long pool 5:41.1 Iowa City, Iowa American / Emmet Cashing (6:06.2)[72]
23 April 1950 440 yd (400 m) 20 yard 5:46.8 Cedar Rapids, Iowa American / James Werson (5:58.5)[73]
26 April 1950 440 yd (400 m) 25 yard 5:15.7 Iowa City, Iowa American / John Higgans (5:46.4)[74]
11 June 1952 440 yd (400 m) long pool 5:33.8 Iowa City, Iowa American / Emmet Cashing (6:06.2)[75][76]
4 June 1950 500 yd (460 m) 25 yard 6:40.4 Iowa City, Iowa American / John Higgans (6:41.4)[77] [78]
9 June 1952 500 yd (460 m) long pool 6:52.0 Iowa City, Iowa American / J. Cashian (6:59) [79]
4 June 1950 500 m (1,600 ft) 25 yard 7:16 Iowa City, Iowa American /John Higgans (7:18.8)[80] [81]
9 June 1952 500 m (1,600 ft) long pool 7:35.0 Iowa City, Iowa American /J. Cashian (7:42.2)[82]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

Stassforth's time of 2:34.7 in the 220 yard breaststroke (long course) at the 1952 AAU Outdoor Nationals correlates to a time of 2:33[83] in the 200 meter breaststroke (long course). This performance was the fastest all-time for the 220 yard breaststroke (long course) and would have been the fastest 200 meter breaststroke (long course) in history (pre-bifurcation of the breaststroke in 1953) as well if it had been dual timed. This is evidenced by the dual distance timed race in the 1950 National AAU Indoor Championships in the 220 yard breaststroke (short course) between Joe Verdeur and Robert Brawner. During the race, Verdeur broke the world record for 200 meters with a time of 2:28.3 (short course). However, Brawner won the race with a time of 2:29.3 for the full 220 yards beating Verdeur who was second in 2:29.4.[84] On July 10, 1952, Stassforth's coach, David Armbruster, had predicted a time of 2:33 for him in the 200 meter breaststroke (long course): "In my opinion, Bowen is capable of about 2:33 and he certainly should be a strong contender for the Olympic title."[85]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1952 US Olympic Book Page 129
  2. ^ 1952 US Olympic Book Page 349
  3. ^ New York Times 7 March 1951 Page 44
  4. ^ 1952 US Olympic Book Page 349
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times 13 August 1950 Page B13
  6. ^ Los Angeles Times 13 August 1950 Page B13
  7. ^ Los Angeles Times 14 August 1950 Page C4
  8. ^ New York Times 6 August 1950 Page S1
  9. ^ New York Times 28 August 1952 Page 30
  10. ^ New York Times 27 August 1952 Page 35
  11. ^ New York Times 5 April 1952 Page 10
  12. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette 30 March 1952 Section 4 Page 1
  13. ^ New York Times 28 July 1951 Page 21
  14. ^ New York Times 23 July 1950 Page S3
  15. ^ New York Times 1 April 1950 Page 23
  16. ^ New York Times 20 August 1949 Page 15
  17. ^ Los Angeles Times 18 August 1949 Page C1
  18. ^ Los Angeles Times 12 August 1945 Page A6
  19. ^ Iowa City Press Citizen March 25, 1950 Page 8
  20. ^ New York Times 27 March 1949 Page S1
  21. ^ Iowa City Press Citizen March 4, 1950 Page 8
  22. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 27 February 1952 Page 18
  23. ^ Escanaba Daily Press February 25, 1952 Page 8
  24. ^ New York Times 6 August 1950 Page S1
  25. ^ Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Bowen Stassforth". Olympics at Sports-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC.
  26. ^ "NCAA Champions, All-Americans & Olympians". hawkeyesports.com. Archived from the original on 2014-03-02.
  27. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 11 December 1952 Page 22
  28. ^ Mason City Globe 6 October 1952 Page 16
  29. ^ Olympian's Oral History Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles Interview March 1987 Oxnard CA between Anita DeFrantz and Thelma Payne Sanborn
  30. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 27 February 1952 Page 18
  31. ^ 2nd Place Curse phone interview August 9, 2010
  32. ^ "History of Butterfly - Fiji Swimming". FOX SPORTS PULSE.
  33. ^ "1945 AAU Men's National Swimming Championships". ovguide.com. Archived from the original on 2016-08-19. Retrieved 2016-07-12.
  34. ^ Los Angeles Times 12 August 1946 Page A6
  35. ^ New York Times 6 April 1946 Page 23
  36. ^ New York Times 5 August 1946 Page 28
  37. ^ Mason City Globe Gazette July 16, 1948 Page 15
  38. ^ Page 120 1948 US Olympic Book-Report of the US Olympic Committee
  39. ^ New York Times 20 August 1949 Page 15
  40. ^ Aims Daily Tribune 25 July 1950 Page 16
  41. ^ New York Times 6 August 1950 Page S1
  42. ^ New York Times 6 August 1950 Page S1
  43. ^ New York Times 23 July 1950 Page S3
  44. ^ Page 349 1952 US Olympic Book-Report of the US Olympic Committee
  45. ^ New York Times 29 July 1951 Page 21
  46. ^ Los Angeles Times 29 March 1952 Page B2
  47. ^ Evening Independent 7 July 1952 Page 16
  48. ^ Page 124 1952 US Olympic Book-Report of the US Olympic Committee
  49. ^ Page 129 1952 US Olympic Book-Report of the US Olympic Committee
  50. ^ "Athletes - Famous Olympic Athletes, Medalists, Sports Heroes". International Olympic Committee.
  51. ^ "Helsinki Opening Track and Pool".
  52. ^ Friel, Ed (August 28, 1952). "Stassforth's Final Sprint Beats Holan in 220-Yard Breaststroke". Newark News.
  53. ^ New York Times 28 August 1952 Page 30
  54. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 6 September 1996 Page 13/
  55. ^ "Bowen Stassforth". Neal Rozendaal.
  56. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette September 14, 1952 Page 5
  57. ^ https://swimswam.com/americas-greatest-breaststroke-champion-of-1950s-bowen-stassforth-dies-at-93/
  58. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 21 June 1952 Page 8
  59. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 27 February 1952 Page 18
  60. ^ Iowa City Press Citizen 21 June 1952 page 8
  61. ^ Page 129 1952 US Olympic Book-Report of the US Olympic Committee
  62. ^ Iowa City Press Citizen 21 June 1952 page 8
  63. ^ Friel, Ed (August 28, 1952). "Stassforth's Final Sprint Beats Holan in 220-Yard Breaststroke". Newark News.
  64. ^ New York Times 28 August 1952 Page 30
  65. ^ Iowa City Press Citizen 21 June 1952 page 8
  66. ^ Mason City Globe Gazette 24 April 1950 Page 9
  67. ^ Atlantic News Telegraph 3 May 1950 Page 6
  68. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette 3 May 1950 Page 13
  69. ^ Mason City Globe Gazette 24 April 1950 Page 9
  70. ^ Burlington Hawk Eye Gazette June 12, 1952 Page 6
  71. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette April 27, 1950 Page 21
  72. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 1 March 1952 Page 10
  73. ^ Mason City Globe Gazette 24 April 1950 Page 9
  74. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette 3 May 1950 Page 21
  75. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 1 March 1952 Page 10
  76. ^ Burlington Hawk Eye Gazette June 12, 1952 Page 6
  77. ^ Burlington Hawk Eye Gazette 5 May 1950 Page 10
  78. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette April 27, 1950 Page 21
  79. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 10 June 1952 Page 10
  80. ^ Burlington Hawk Eye Gazette 5 May 1950 Page 10
  81. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette April 27, 1950 Page 21
  82. ^ Cedar Rapids Gazette 10 June 1952 Page 10
  83. ^ New York Times 28 August 1952 Page 30
  84. ^ New York Times 1 April 1950 Page 23
  85. ^ Iowa City Press-Citizen 10 July 1952 Page 18