Martha Norelius

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Martha Norelius
Martha Norelius 1928.jpg
Martha Norelius at 1928 Olympics
Personal information
Full name Martha Maria Norelius
National team  United States
Born (1909-01-21)January 21, 1909
Stockholm, Sweden
Died September 25, 1955(1955-09-25) (aged 46)
St. Louis, Missouri
Sport Swimming
Strokes Freestyle
Club Women's Swimming Association

Martha Maria Norelius (January 21, 1909 – September 25, 1955) was a Swedish-born American competition swimmer, Olympic gold medalist, and former world record-holder in five different freestyle swimming events.

Norelius was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1909.[1] Her father was Swedish Olympic swimmer Charles Norelius, who was also her swimming coach.

She was first recognized for her swimming and diving skills just after her seventh birthday, at an exhibition at the Greenbrier pool, where her father was a swimming instructor.[2] At the age of 15, she represented the United States at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris.[1][3] Norelius won the gold medal in the women's 400-meter freestyle in 1924, setting a new Olympic record (6:02.2), and edging fellow Americans Helen Wainwright (6:03.8) and Gertrude Ederle (6:04.8). Four years later, at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, she won two more gold medals. First, in individual competition, she won the women's 400-meter freestyle, breaking her own record with a new world mark of 5:42.8, and defeating Dutch swimmer Marie Braun by fifteen seconds. In the women's 4×100-meter freestyle relay event, Norelius and her American teammates Eleanor Garatti, Adelaide Lambert and Albina Osipowich, won the gold medal and set a new world record in both the event final (4:47.6).

Between 1925 and 1929, Norelius won eleven individual Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles and set at least 19 world and 30 American records. She remains the only woman to have received two Olympic back-to-back gold medals in the 400-meter freestyle.[4]

In 1929 she turned professional and won the ten-mile Wrigley Marathon in Toronto. There she met Canadian Olympic rower Joseph Wright, Jr., and later married him on March 15, 1930.

Norelius died in 1955, following gall bladder surgery[5] and was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.[6] She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an "honor swimmer" in 1967.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b, Olympic Sports, Athletes, Martha Norelius. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  2. ^ "White Sulphur". Richmond Times (Society - Fashions). 30 January 1916. p. 7. 
  3. ^ "Olympic Swimmer Is Fifteen Years Old," Oakland Tribune, p. 2D (August 17, 1924). Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  4. ^ Lohn, John (2010). Historical Dictionary of Competitive Swimming. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 106. ISBN 9780810867758. 
  5. ^ "Former Olympics Champion Is Dead". The Sedalia Democrat (Associated Press). 27 September 1955. p. 10. 
  6. ^ "Martha N. Brown Death Certificate" (PDF). Division of Health of Missouri. 7 October 1955. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Gertrude Ederle
Women's 200-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

February 28, 1926 – March 6, 1930
Succeeded by
Helene Madison
Preceded by
Gertrude Ederle
Women's 400-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

January 23, 1927 – June 30, 1928
June 30, 1928 – August 6, 1928
August 6, 1928 – August 27, 1928
August 27, 1928 – February 3, 1931
Succeeded by
Helene Madison
Preceded by
Ethel McGary
Women's 800-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

August 7, 1926 – July 31, 1927
July 31, 1927 – August 10, 1929
Succeeded by
Josephine McKim
Preceded by
Edith Mayne
Women's 1,500-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

July 28, 1927 – July 15, 1931
Succeeded by
Helene Madison