Gloria Callen (USA)
Honor Swimmer (1984)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1940 Member of US Olympic Team; WORLD RECORDS: 1 (medley relay); AAU NATIONAL TITLES: 12 (100m, 100yd backstroke; 7 relays); AAU LONG DISTANCE TITLE: 1938.
“Glorious Gloria” Callen was voted the USA’s Outstanding Woman Athlete of 1942. As a junior in high school, she set six American records in one day in March at the Madison Square Boy’s Club, breaking one of Eleanor Holm’s records among others. She went on to win the Indoor Nationals in Detroit (April) and the Outdoor Nationals for the third successive year, this time at Neenah, Wisconsin. That June she became the first woman to be elected president of the senior class at Nyack (N.Y.) High School. She also won New York’s Fashion Academy Award as one of America’s 13 best-dressed women.
Gloria Callen captured the hearts of American sportsmen while setting 35 American swimming records. She won 13 national Titles and set one World Record. Her first championship was in the National Long Distance Three Mile Swim in 1938 at Clemonton Lake, N.Y. shortly after this, she changed from freestyle to backstroke where she was undefeated until she retired for lack of goals and competition. She wanted to get a crack at World Record holder Cor Kint of Holland and she, like Kint, and other great young swimmers of the war years, never got a shot at world travel or at the Olympics. She made the 1940 U.S. Olympics team with stopwatch time to spare, but the team was a mythical honor with no place to go. Gloria’s swimming career was over when she enrolled at Barnard College and joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services.