Mariechen Wehselau (USA)
Honor Pioneer Swimmer (1989)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1924 gold (400m freestyle relay), silver (100m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: (100yd, 100m freestyle; 400m freestyle relay); Hawaii’s first woman Olympic gold medalist.
Mariechen Wehselau became Hawaii’s first woman Olympic gold medalist by swimming anchor on the USA winning 400 meter freestyle relay team at the 1924 Paris Olympics. She was 18 years old and never had been out of the territory of Hawaii before she traveled to the tryouts in New York. It was the year that nine Hawaiian swimmers made the team…eight men and Mariechen.
On board the SS America, during the voyage from New York to Paris, Mariechen remembers training in the little canvas pool below deck. She wore a harness suspended from a cable so the swimmers would swim in place, a not very elegant way to stay in peak condition. But it was enough to enable her to set the world record in the Olympic 100 meter freestyle semi-final, take the silver medal the following day in the finals, and anchor the gold-medal winning freestyle relay team for the USA (she had already set the world record for the 100 yard freestyle the year before). Teammates Euphrasia Donnelly and Hall of Famers Ethel Lackie and Gertrude Ederle joined Mariechen in setting a new Olympic and world record in this event.
After Paris, Mariechen was invited by the Australian Swimming Association to compete in their championships and perform in various exhibitions. She and Mrs. E. Fullard Leo traveled to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and many small towns where Mariechen won every head-to-head race, except one which was an impossible handicap.
From 1928 to 1937, Mariechen helped her coach, Dad Center, train the younger swimmers. She had retired from active competition leaving her mark in US and International swimming.