Norelius, Martha (1908–1955)

views updated

Norelius, Martha (1908–1955)

Swedish-born Olympic swimmer who was the first woman to win successive gold medals. Born on January 29, 1908, in Stockholm, Sweden; died on September 23, 1955.

Won an Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle in Paris (1924); won Olympic gold medals in the 400-meter freestyle and the 4x100-meter relay in Amsterdam (1928).

Born in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 29, 1908, Martha Norelius grew up in the United States. As she developed as a swimmer, she was reportedly the first woman to adopt what was then a distinctly male style of swimming: holding her head and elbows high, keeping her back arched and using a six-beat kick. The method worked; she won the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle in the 1924 Olympics (beating Gertrude Ederle in the process), and in the 1928 Olympics won another gold in the same competition, making her the first woman to win Olympic gold medals in two consecutive Games. She also won the gold for her role as a member of the victorious 4x100-meter freestyle relay team in 1928.

In the two years prior to her second Olympic victory, Norelius set more than 30 world records in swimming events ranging from 50-meter races to marathons. One of her more significant wins was her first-place finish in the $10,000, 10-mile William Wrigley Marathon in Toronto, Canada. Norelius, who died in 1955, was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1967.

Lisa Frick , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri

About this article

Norelius, Martha (1908–1955)

Updated About content Print Article