George Breen

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George Breen
Personal information
Full nameGeorge Thomas Breen
National team United States
Born(1935-07-19)July 19, 1935
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 9, 2019(2019-11-09) (aged 84)
New Jersey, U.S.
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight183 lb (83 kg)
ClubIndianapolis Athletic Club
College teamCortland State University

George Thomas Breen (July 19, 1935 – November 9, 2019) was an American competition swimmer, four-time Olympic medalist, and world record-holder in three events. After retiring as a swimmer, he became a coach at Jersey Wahoos Swim Club in New Jersey.


Breen was born in Buffalo, New York. He was a champion rower for Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo, and the West Side Rowing Club. He began swimming competitively as a 17-year-old freshman at Cortland State University under coach Doc Counsilman, almost a decade later than most of his future rivals.

World competitor[edit]

Breen represented the United States at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. As a member of the second-place U.S. team in the men's 4×200-meter freestyle relay, Breen earned a silver medal, together with Dick Hanley, Bill Woolsey and Ford Konno. He also took bronze medals in the 400-meter freestyle (4:32.5) and men's 1,500-meter freestyle (18:08.2) – after setting a new world record of 17:52.9 in the qualifying heats of the 1,500.

At the 1959 Pan American Games, he won a gold medal for his first-place finish in the 400-meter freestyle and a silver as the runner-up in the 1500-meter freestyle. He was elected team captain of the U.S. men for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and earned another bronze medal while competing in the men's 1,500-meter freestyle (17:55.9).

Breen coached the Penn Quakers men's swimming team at the University of Pennsylvania from the late 1966 until 1982, and served as a coach for U.S. Swimming. He formerly coached for Gloucester County Institute of Technology (Deptford, New Jersey) swim team (now separate from the school, it is known as the Greater Philadelphia Aquatic Club) and at the Jersey Wahoos Swim Club in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.

In 1975, Breen was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Later life and death[edit]

Breen was a resident of Washington Township, Gloucester County, New Jersey, where he coached local high school and club swim teams into his 70s.[1] He was diagnosed with bone cancer of his right middle finger and had to have it amputated. After battling pancreatic cancer for several years, Breen died on November 9, 2019 in New Jersey.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pawling, Chris. "Swimming legend George Breen pays visit to local meet", South Jersey Times, January 30, 2012. Accessed November 30, 2017. "Washington Township resident George Breen was in attendance at Saturday’s SJISA Coaches’ Invitational swim meet at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology."
  2. ^ "George Breen, a Four-Time Olympic Medalist, Dies After Cancer Battle". Swimming World News. 2019-11-10. Retrieved 2019-11-12.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Men's 1,500-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

May 3, 1956 – October 30, 1956
Succeeded by
Preceded by Men's 1,500-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

December 5, 1956 – February 22, 1958
Succeeded by