Masaru Furukawa (JPN)
Honor Swimmer (1981)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1956 gold (200m breaststroke); WORLD RECORDS: 10 (3 relays); AMERICAN RECORD: 1; Successfully exploited the use of underwater swimming in Breaststroke and was finished when it was ruled out after 1956.
Masaru Furukawa spent more time underwater than any swimmer. He so completely dominated World Breaststroke that the only way he could be beaten was by rewriting the rules and taking the stroke above water. His critics could never beat him and argued that the stroke had originally been a surface stroke and that the submarine version was dangerous, dull for the spectators and impossible to officiate. The only time they saw Furukawa was at the start, the finish and once when he came up for a breath at the 50-meter turn. Legislation finally beat the human submarine where competition had failed. After 10 World Records and an Olympic gold medal his career abruptly ended in 1956. Above water he proved an ordinary mortal but between the Butterfly Breaststroke and the much slower modern (old fashioned) classic Breaststroke, Furukawa dominated the stroke as no one else ever has in any stroke. A much slower minimum standard was set and it wasn’t until 1961 that Chet Jastremski, another innovator, finally broke Furukawa’s times.