A Special Happy Birthday to our 2020 ISHOF Honor Swimmer MICHAEL KLIM !!!
2020 ISHOF Honor Swimmer
He was born in Poland, taught to swim in India, lived in Canada
and Germany as a youth and ended up swimming for Australia, where his family settled
and finally considered home. As much as he moved during his youth, there was a
constant in his life: Swimming. No
matter where he was, no matter what country, Klim could always join the swim
team and feel like he fit right in.
Klim first represented Australia in 1994, at the Commonwealth
Games in Victoria, British Columbia. But didn’t really begin to shine until
1995 when he was named Australian Swimming Rookie of the Year.
Klim specialized in the freestyle and butterfly events and became
one of the most notable athletes in Australian history. At his first Olympic
appearance in Atlanta in 1996, he entered competition ranked first in the world
in the 200m freestyle, but did not make finals. However, he and his Aussie teammates
brought home the bronze medal in the 4 x 100m medley relay, Klim’s contribution
a precursor to his status as an all-time great in relay duty.
It was at the 1998 FINA World Championships in Perth, in
front of a home crowd, in which Klim produced his best performance. On home
soil, Klim claimed seven medals in seven events, four of which were gold. The
effort is considered one of the most outstanding performances by an Australian
at an international swimming event.
Eight months later, at the Commonwealth Games, Klim again won
seven medals, of which four were gold.
Yet, as Klim says, “The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, was
Australia’s coming out party,” or at least its return to the greatness that was
once common. In 1996, Australia ranked fifth
at the Olympics, with just two gold medals won in the pool. After Sydney, Australia was a solid No. 2
behind the United States, with 18 total medals – five gold, nine silver and
four bronze. Klim had a role in two of
those gold medals and two of the silver medals, his biggest feat what he
managed leading off Australia’s triumphant 4 x 100m freestyle relay.
Prior to Sydney, the United States owned that relay, having
never lost the event in Olympic history. As the Games prepared to open, the American
swimmers thought the title theirs to keep, with veteran Gary Hall Jr. stating
the U.S. would “smash the Australians like guitars.” When the beep went off for the
much-anticipated duel, Klim propelled the Aussies into the lead, his leadoff
split of 48.18 setting a world record for the 100 freestyle.
The relay came down to the anchors: Ian Thorpe vs. Hall. Although Hall led most of the way, Thorpe
pulled ahead in the last 15 meters and enabled Australia to break the United
States’ unbeaten Olympic streak in the event.
The Aussie team, in response to Hall’s comments, celebrated their win by
playing air guitars for the hometown crowd.
Klim walked away from Sydney with four medals, two gold and two
silver, and three world records.
Klim retired in 2007 but announced a comeback in 2011, toying
with the idea of trying to make the 2012 Olympic Team. Although impressively reaching the semifinals
of both the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly, Klim again announced his
retirement after the Australian Trials.