Ragnhild Hveger (DEN)
Honor Swimmer (1966)
FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1936 silver (400m freestyle), 7th (4x100m freestyle relay); 1952 4th (4x100m freestyle relay), 5th (400m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: Holder of 19 world records at one time in freestyle (1941); 100m backstroke.
Ragnhild Hveger is considered by many European swim buffs to be “the most extraordinary swimmer ever to have existed.” . . . sort of a female Johnny Weissmuller. Hveger did not last as long, but she was supreme at more distances. While her times were fast, her timing was incredibly bad, particularly as far as a good Olympic showing was concerned.
At 15, she was still too young for the 1936 Olympics and placed only second to Holland’s great Rie Mastenbroek in the 400 meters at Berlin.
Perhaps Hveger even could have dominated the 1948 Olympics in which the Danish girls did so well, spearheaded by Hall of Famer Greta Andersen, but she was married, out of shape, retired, and didn’t even try out for those first post-war Games. By 1952, when she did come back, Ragnhild Hveger had the classic style but no longer had her world’s greatest speed. She was too old and made only relays. Had there been Olympics instead of war in 1940 and 1944, the record books indicate that Hveger would have won all. When war broke out in 1941, she held more freestyle World Records at one time (19) than any other woman ever had. Furthermore, many of her records lasted for 15 years. She also held the World’s 100 meter backstroke record.