Obit of the Day: The “Golden Torpedo”
In of the ironies that make history so wonderful, Danish swimmer Ragnhild Hveger won her first Olympic medal at the 1936 Berlin games, also known as Hitler’s Olympics. Hveger, one of the greatest swimmers in history, was only fifteen at the time she win her silver medal but it would be her last Olympics. And it was all because of the Nazis.
Hveger, who was nicknamed the “Golden Torpedo,” held 44 world records, including 19 at one time, between 1936 and 1945. When she was only sixteen she won three gold medals at the 1937 world championships. She was poised to dominant the swimming pool at the upcoming 1940 Olympics in London. Then World War II erupted in September 1939. A few months later her homeland of Denmark was invaded. The 1940 Olympics, and later the ‘44 Games, were cancelled. But Ms. Hveger’s career did not end.
Her parents were both Nazis. So Hveger, while her country was occupied by Germans, continued to swim in competitions, many of them in Berlin. This did not endear her to her fellow Danes. After the war ended she was isolated from the athletic community and in the ultimate punishment she was forbidden from joining the Danish swim team at the 1948 Olympic Games. (She did make the team in 1952, but, at 31 years old, was past her prime.)
Hveger went into isolation rarely granting interviews and doing some coaching. Although she had tranished her image she was still named the female athlete of the century by the Danish Olympic Committee in 1996. She was also named one the top ten swimmers of the 20th century, male or female, by Swimming World in 1999.
(Image courtesy of http://uscathle.net/)