John Marshall (AUS)
Honor Swimmer (1973)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1948 silver (1500m freestyle), bronze (400m freestyle); 1952 8th (1500m freestyle); 1956 5th (100m butterfly); AUSTRALIAN NATIONALS Titles: 1949 (every freestyle title from 100m to 1500m); 1950 (440yd, 400m freestyle); U.S. NATIONAL AAU Indoor Championships: 1950 (220 yd, 440yd, 880yd, 200m, 400m, 1 mile freestyle); 1951 (440yd, 400m freestyle); Numerous WORLD and AMERICAN RECORDS:
John Marshall shot across the horizon of the swimming world with the brilliance of a meteor. for three years (1949-1951) his record-breaking performances have not been surpassed in the annals of speed swimming. At the 1949 Australian Nationals, he won every freestyle title from 100 to 1500 meters.
On February 11, 1950 at New Haven, he set a new world record for 440 years of 4 min. 36.4 sec. On March 4th, he lowered it to 4 min. 35.6 sec.; on March 11th, the 400 meter record to 4 min. 33.1 sec. and the 440 yards record to 4 min. 34.8 sec.
At the 46th U.S. National AAU Indoor Championships, John Marshall won three titles and broke four world records, plus a new American record for 1500 meters of 18 min. 37 sec. On March 31st he lowered the 200 meters to 2 min. 04.6 sec. and the 220 yards to 2 min. 05.5 sec. The next day, April 1, he set new marks of 4 min. 29.5 sec. for 400 meters and 4 min. 31.2 sec. for 440 yards.
July 7th he set a new world mark for 880 yards of 9 min. 43.9 sec. and one mile of 19 min. 49.4 sec. On July 23rd, he lowered the 880 yards to 9 min. 37.5 sec. Both swims were in a 55 yard pool. On February 17th, 1951, he set a world record for 440 yards of 4 min. 28.1 sec. and on March 24th, he set a world record for 400 meters of 4 min. 26.9 sec.
During his university career at Yale, Marshall was the first in the U.S. to show that a swimmer could go fast from beginning to end in the middle and long distance races. He was a freshman, physically unassuming and so modest that his unprecedented assault on the world record book inspired all swimmers to believe they too could be John Marshalls.
Back home in Australia, John Marshall stimulated, more than any other individual, the resurgence of Australian swimming that is still going strong after cresting in 1956 with a virtual Olympic sweep. In this sweep, John Marshall, on a modest come-back, placed 5th in 100 meter butterfly. This followed his 1948 Olympic bronze and silver medals on his way up, and a disappointing 8th in the 1952 Olympics on his way down.
Every child in Australia wanted to be another John Marshall and it is for this reason that his quiet dignity in defeat was just as impressive as his unfailing modesty in victory regardless of the constant glare of publicity.
His friendly, gentlemanly bearing and affectionate interest in younger swimmers made him worthy of their esteem. When he died in a car accident at age 26 in 1957, John Marshall was on his way to becoming a successful business executive who had learned from swimming how to handle himself with success, in success as in disappointment.