Hveger, Ragnhild (1920—)

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Hveger, Ragnhild (1920—)

Danish swimmer. Born in Denmark on December 10,1920.

Broke 42 records at various distances; held world records in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meters which stood for 15 years; won the silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle in Olympics Games (1936); elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (1966).

The greatest number of world records held by any swimmer, male or female, is 42 (only Arne Borg of Sweden at 32 comes close). Ragnhild Hveger of Denmark accumulated these trophies between 1936 and 1942. When she began swimming in the 1930s, Ragnhild showed great promise. Like so many of her generation, however, her life as well as her athletic career was permanently changed by World War II. In 1936 at the Berlin Games, Ragnhild was only 15 when she won a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle, losing the gold to Dutch swimmer Rie Mastenbroek . In 1940, Hveger was 19 and at her peak, but there were no games held from 1936 to 1948 because of the war. She continued to swim, breaking those 42 world records at various distances. From 1938 to 1953, no other swimmer topped Hveger's records in the 200, 400, 800, and 1,500 meters. Though she retired in 1945 and did not try out for the 1948 games, she decided to give the Olympics one last shot in 1952. The 32-year-old swam on the 4th place 4x400-meter relay team and placed 5th in the 400-meter freestyle. Given that few swimmers over 20 compete internationally, her performance was remarkable. Even on that day, no one broke Hveger's world record of 5:00.1 in the 400-meter freestyle.

Karin Loewen Haag , freelance writer, Athens, Georgia