Swimmer Adolph Kiefer, a 1936 Olympic champion, died at his Illinois home at age 98 on Friday, according to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Prior to his death, Kiefer was the oldest living U.S. Olympic champion.
Kiefer, a 100m backstroke gold medalist, was still swimming an hour daily at age 95, according to a Chicago Tribune profile in 2014, despite neuropathy in his hands and legs.
“Oh, this is heaven,” he told the newspaper of being in the water. “How could you be without this?”
Kiefer was 17 at the 1936 Olympics and would go on to hold world records in every backstroke event. He met Adolf Hitler and shook his hand in Berlin.
“If I would have known then what we found out later, I would’ve thrown him in the pool,” Kiefer told the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
There were no Olympics in 1940 or 1944 due to World War II. So, Kiefer turned down the Hollywood role of Tarzan, opting to become Lt. Kiefer, the officer in charge of swimming for the U.S. Navy. He’s credited with teaching thousands swim safety and how to survive in the water.
He later created his own business, Kiefer & Associates, whose swim products included lane lines, kickboards and racing suits.
Kiefer was one of the last three living U.S. Olympians from the 1936 Berlin Games, along with canoeist John Lysak and swimmer Iris Cummings, according to Olympstats.com.
Kiefer was also part of the 2016 NBC Sports documentary “More than Gold” on the 1936 Olympics.
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