Andersen, Greta (1927—)

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Andersen, Greta (1927—)

Danish long-distance swimmer. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 1, 1927.

Won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle relay in London Olympics (1948); holder of 24 national titles and four European championships; repeatedly beat men in long-distance swimming; elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1969).

Though her father taught gymnastics, Greta Andersen enrolled in swimming school when she was a teenager. Soon she was a national champion, easily qualifying for the 1948 Olympics in London, where she won the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle relay. (Her Danish teammate Karen-Margrete Harup took the 100-meter backstroke and was runner-up in the 400-meter freestyle.) Not long after the games, with a time of 58.2, Andersen set a world record for the 100 meters that would stand for seven years.

In 1950, she came to the United States, eventually becoming a swimming instructor in California. After she retired from indoor-pool races, Andersen began to enter long-distance meets. Though several men arrived ahead of her in the 1956 Salton Sea competition, she was the only woman to swim the 10½ miles, finishing in 4 hrs. and 25 min. The following year, Andersen decided to cross the English Channel with 23 other swimmers; she was one of only two who completed the swim.

Noting that in long-distance swims she usually placed second to a man, she was determined to take first. In 1958 she did just that, defeating 27 swimmers in the 26 miles along the coast of Guaymas, Mexico. She swam the English Channel again, arriving ahead of four men, with a time of 11 hrs. and 1 min. In 1958, she swam 18-mile Lake St. John in Quebec with a time of 8 hrs. 17 min., beating all comers. She also crossed Catalina Channel twice, swimming the 19 miles over in 10 hrs. 49 min., with a total time of 26 hrs. 53 min. In 1959, she swam the English Channel a third time. She also swam from the U.S. mainland to Catalina in 11 hrs. 7 min., breaking Florence Chadwick 's record. In 1962, Andersen swam across Lake Michigan, a distance of 50 miles, further than any long-distance swimmer had gone. During her long-distance career, Greta Andersen beat every male she competed against at least once.

Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia

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Andersen, Greta (1927—)

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