| Friday, May 5, 2017
USA Swimming is sad to learn of the passing of swimming legend Adolph Kiefer at 98 years old.
Adolph was a tireless advocate for promoting swimming, as an Olympic champion athlete, an instructor in the U.S. Navy and a business owner whose swimming products were an important part to advancing the sport. Kiefer was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965.
“Adolph Kiefer embodied swimming and lived it every day of his life. He was a pioneer for our sport in the truest sense of the word,” said USA Swimming Interim Executive Director Mike Unger. “Adolph was so passionate about swimming and exuded it to everyone. When you met him, he made you feel so special and he was amazing to be around.”
The oldest living American Olympic gold medalist in any sport, Kiefer won the 100-meter backstroke in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin as a 17-year old. Kiefer entered the U.S. Navy in 1944 and when the Navy was losing thousands of lives due to drowning, Kiefer was appointed to set up a safety curriculum and trained officers how to survive in the water. His “Victory Backstroke” was credited with helping to save thousands of lives in the final years of the war and was later adopted by the American Red Cross.
In 1947, he founded a swim equipment company that invented several performance and safety products. Some of his innovations included the first nylon swimsuit, which was used by the U.S. Olympic Team and patent for the first design of the non-turbulent racing lane line. His company was widely recognized as an industry leader, producing lane lines, starting blocks, lifeguard equipment and apparel. Kiefer served as CEO from the company’s founding until he retired in 2011.
Kiefer also served on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition under three presidents.