CHI LIEH YUNG AND THE MU FAMILY
WILL BE THE FIRST CHINESE SWIMMERS
INDUCTED INTO THE HALL OF FAME
– The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) today announced that Chi Lieh Yung and the father son duo of Mu Chengkuan and Mu Xiangxiong have been selected for induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as “Pioneers.” They will join ten other individuals, representing all five aquatic disciplines in the Class of 2013, in induction ceremonies that will take place on Saturday evening, May 11, 2013 in Fort Lauderdale.
The Pioneer Category of Honoree Selection allows the Selection Committee and Board of Directors to review credentials and circumstances of great nominees who have been overlooked or lost in the shuffle of time.
“Like most of the world, we knew very little about what was happening inside the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during the Mao years,” says Bruce Wigo, ISHOF CEO. “It’s only recently that the history of China’s swimming and diving programs from this era has come to light. In recognizing Chi Lieh Yung, Mu Chengkuan and Mu Xiangxiong, we are able to tell the stories of three swimmers who remain legendary figures in their own country, but who are virtually unknown outside of it.”
In the early 1900’s, China was viewed as the “sick man of Asia” and individually, the Chinese were viewed by the west as being physically inferior to other races. But as Chinese youth were given opportunities to train and compete in sports, Chinese athletes began to achieve world-class ranking. In 1956, China had prepared 92 athletes to compete in Melbourne as the Chinese Olympic Team. Unfortunately, due to a political dispute over the IOC’s recognition of Taiwan as China, the PRC did not send the team. Among the nine swimmers who lost the opportunity to compete in the Melbourne Games were Chi Lieh Yung and Mu Xiangxiong.
On May 1st, 1957, at a meet in Canton, with international referees from Russia and Hungary present, Chi Lieh Yung swam the 100m breaststroke in the time of 1:11.6, beating the world record by 1.4 seconds. The officials were too astonished to believe it, but eventually it was recognized by FINA and Chi became a national hero because it was the first world record achieved by a Chinese athlete. Chi's record was broken in September of 1957 by a Russian swimmer, whose time of 1:11:5, officially lasted until 1960.
The story of Mu Chengkuan and his son, Mu Xiangxiong is well-known in China through a famous movie about their lives, "Enter the Water Dragon" (literally translated, “Water: Spring and Autumn”) released in1959. Trained by his father, Mu Xiangxiong was one of the world’s best underwater breaststrokers in the mid 1950’s. Kept from swimming in Melbourne, the state decided to hold a swimming match in Shanghai at exactly the same time and day the Olympic breaststroke final was to be swum in Melbourne. Mu’s time was reportedly faster than that swum by Japanese Olympic champion and ISHOF Honoree, Masaru Furukawa. When the underwater breaststroke was ruled illegal after Melbourne, Mu went through a period of adjusting and recreating his style. He made this transition successfully, breaking the listed world record in the 100m breaststroke three times, in 1958 and 1959, dropping the record to 1:11.1. However, due to China’s withdrawal from the IOC in August of 1958, his times went unrecognized by FINA.
As recognized by China’s swimming world, the foundation of its swimming program stands on the shoulders of these three men, who inspired millions of Chinese to take to the water and gave millions more an important sense of national pride.
Chi and the Mu’s will join ten other individuals to be inducted as the ISHOF class of 2013: Swimmers GARY HALL, JR. (USA), PIETER VAN DEN HOOGENBAND (NED), YANA KLOCHKOVA (UKR) and DAGMAR HASE (GER);
Diver HU JIA (CHN);
Synchronized Swimmer NATHALIE SCHNEYDER (USA);
Water Polo Player MILIVOJ BEBIC (YUG, CRO);
Open Water Swimmer CLIFF LUMSDON (CAN);
Coach ALBERTO CASTAGNETTI (ITA)
and in the Contributor category, PETER MONTGOMERY (AUS).
For more information, contact Bruce Wigo at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 954-559-1622.