Erich Rademacher (GER)
Honor Swimmer (1972)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1928 gold (water polo), silver (200m breaststroke); 1932 silver (water polo); GERMAN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 25; EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2; HUNGARIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2; CZECHOSLOVAKIA CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1; BRITISH CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1; US CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1; Held all world breaststroke marks from 50yd to 500m, records broken and re-broken 30 times.
Erich “Ete” Rademacher was denied his chance to compete in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics because his country was not back in good graces with the IOC following World War I.
During those years of German Olympic exile, Rademacher set 11 world records in breaststroke and one in freestyle. His times were consistently better than the double Olympic champion Malmroth of Sweden as well as better than the Olympic breaststroke champion Skelton and Skelton’s principal U.S. rival Faricy, who sprained his ankle in Paris and missed the 1924 games. Rademacher’s first world record was in beating the 1912 Olympic champion Walter Bathe in a 1916 race prior to those war cancelled games. At 15, he beat Bathe and Bathe’s world time in the 400 meter breaststroke.
Rademacher beat his U.S. rivals in winning the U.S. AAU Indoor 220 breaststroke championship in 1923. He also won the European Championships twice when the Germans again were allowed to swim in 1926 and 1927.
By the time Rademacher was permitted to swim in the Olympics (1928), he was the current world record holder at 2:48 for the 200 meters and an overwhelming favorite to win a gold medal. In the Olympic finals, he was indeed the fastest swimmer, employing the traditional above water surface breaststroke (with a single butterfly arm action off the turns), but Tsuruta of Japan stayed underwater most of the way and won the Olympic title in world record time (2:45.4). It looked like Rademacher would have to settle for an Olympic silver but his frustration lasted only hours. He was in the nets that night when the Germans won the Olympic water polo title in overtime against the Hungarians. Erich Rademacher and his brother “Acki” (also a water polo player) became the first brothers to win gold medals at the same Olympics in an Aquatic sport.
Rademacher’s 12 year struggle to get into an Olympics and to win had finally been rewarded. He was back in the goal again in Los Angeles in 1932 as the Germans silver medaled in water polo. Many consider Erich Rademacher the all time water polo goal tender and many others rank him first in all time breaststroke. All told, he won 1,012 first places in a 23 year amateur swimming career that lasted from 1911 to 1934. He won 25 German national championships, 2 European, 2 Hungarian and one each in Czechoslovakia, Great Britain and the USA. His famous “Hellas” Magdeburg team won 9 national water polo championships with Rademacher guarding the nets. On his U.S. tour in 1926 Rademacher set 10 records in 11 days. He held all world breaststroke marks from 50 yards to 500 meters, records he broke and re-broke 30 times, establishing himself as the Golden Twenties Breaststroke King, standing beside freestylers Weissmuller and Borg and backstroker Kealoa, all now joined in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.