June 17, 2017
Pick up a copy of the June 2017 Swimming World Magazine and you can read a great story about the men who changed the history of swimming. One of those amazing men is Montana's own Dave Berkoff. A few of the other men include:
- Johnny Weismuller was the first swimmer to break one minute in the 100 meter free, break five minutes in the 400 meter free, and play the film role of Tarzan in the 1930's and 1940's.
- Adolph Kiefer was the first man to break one minute in the 100 backstroke in 1935...and later taught the US Navy how to swim.
- Mark Spitz was the first man to win seven gold medals in one Olympic Games in 1972.
- Matt Biondi was the first man to swim the 100 meter freestyle in under 49 seconds on August 6, 1985.
- Tom Jager and Matt Biondi were the first American male swimmers to win gold medals in three Olympiads in the same event in the 4x100 free relay in 1984, 1988, and 1992.
- And Michael Phelps became the first man to win eight gold medals in one Olympic Games in 2008 along with many more firsts in swimming.
One amazing notable first is still used by every swimmer today and it revolutionized swimming. The underwater dolphin kick is used in every stroke even if it is just one dolphin kick in the breaststroke. But until 1987 swimming was mainly done on the surface. Then along came the American sensation and Harvard University backstroker Dave Berkoff who trained using an underwater dolphin kick staying underwater 35-40 meters. He was the first backstroker to break 55 seconds in the 100 meter backstroke swimming 54.95 on August 12, 1988, breaking the world record!
At the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games that September the whole world saw watched "The Berkoff Blastoff". In prelims of the 100 back, Berkoff broke his month old world record setting a new time of 54.51!! In the finals of the 100 back Dave had a slow start but touched first at the 50 meter mark by a half second. As he raced towards the finish Japan's Suzuki used his version of the underwater kick and caught up to Dave and just out touched him winning the gold, 55.05 to 55.18.
Dave's amazing kick, The Berkoff Blastoff, caused such an uproar that FINA voted to immediately limit the underwater portion off each wall to 10 meters. In 1991 FINA modified that ruling to 15 meters which is still the rule today. Every swimmer today uses underwater dolphin kicks in their swimming and Dave's amazing Berkoff Blastoff changed the sport of swimming forever!
Thanks to Swimming World Magazine for the great story! Thanks to Dave Berkoff for breaking barriers and changing swimming for the better!
Swimming World Magazine, Annie Grevers, author. Momentous Male Milestones. pp 24-29. June 2017, Volume 58, No. 6.