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by Author Unknown

July 19, 2000

Started at 16; became first Olympic champion in dolphin butterfly

William Yorzyk (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1971. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:

Have you ever felt sorry for yourself because you think you started too late to become a great swimmer, or because you didn't have a 50-meter pool, or because you didn't have any money like those rich kids who could afford the best? When you do, think of Bill Yorzyk—shortened from Yorczyk. Bill was a beginning swimmer when he went to college at age 16. He trained most of his career in the Springfield College 20-yard pool and he financed his entire undergraduate and graduate school education except for his freshman year.

In spite of all this, Yorzyk made it big. This wasn't the dark ages of swimming, but the modern era of Murray Rose and Dawn Fraser. The push part of the stroke and interval training had already begun. In fact, there is very little today that the Australians were not already doing by 1956. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the Australians were so good in fact that Bill Yorzyk won the United States's only gold medal in men's swimming.

Bill Yorzyk, the first Olympic champion in the dolphin-butterfly stroke stands out in many ways. His Springfield College coach Red Silvia saw something in a freshman who was for all intents and purposes a non-swimmer. Bill had the drive, ambition and intelligence to follow through. Each year was his biggest year as he started by winning his freshman swim team numerals his first year in the water. By his junior year he was NCAA All-American. His senior year he was co-captain and Eastern Intercollegiate champion, but he was just getting started.

While a graduate assistant in physical education at Springfield, he won his first AAU Nationals in 1955 in the 200-meter fly, then won a Pan Am gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle relay. In 1956, Yorzyk did just about everything for an American swimmer. He was Outdoor National AAU high point man, winning the 200-meter fly and the 400-meter IM, both in world record time. He also swam on world record 400-meter medley and 800-meters freestyle relays. This was followed by his win in the Olympics where Jack Nelson, the United States's second butterflyer was also a late bloomer, having started swimming when he was 23. Still feeling sorry for yourself?; maybe you started too young.

Bill Yorzyk set a total of 11 world records and won the U.S. National Outdoor butterfly title four times from 1955 through 1958. He won the U.S. AAU Indoor 220-yard butterfly in 1958 while attending medical school in Toronto, then continued to swim as player-coach of the Toronto team winning Canadian Intercollegiate and open titles in 1958 and1959.

Canada allows graduate students to swim intercollegiate and Yorzyk won the Bickle Prize for the University of Toronto's top scholar athlete in 1958 and 1959.

By 1964, Captain William Yorzyk of the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps was finishing up his military service in Japan where he announced the Olympics on U.S. Armed Forces radio. He was attending physician to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, to the U.S. National swimming team in Japan in 1963, and Associate Physician to the Olympic team in 1964.

Dr. Bill Yorzyk quit competitive swimming in 1960 at the age of 26 when his job as a lab technician and his medical studies won him over to a life of leisure. Yorzyk gives full credit for his swimming, his education, and his professional start in medicine to meeting the right man, coach Charles E. Silvia, at the right time—his freshman year at Springfield College. Of Silvia, Yorzyk says "He alone is 100% responsible for my success in swimming. He took me into his home, where I lived for several years, and I worked closely with him, during both the summer and winter years of my competitive swimming career. He is also largely responsible, through motivation and stimulation, for my matriculation into medicine."

As to the dolphin-butterfly stroke, swimmer Yorzyk, with an assist from coach Silvia, was the first competitor to swim the stroke using two kicks to one arm cycle, the first to use the every-other-stroke breathing cycle and the first to apply such principles of physics as the law of levers and the bending the elbow during the propulsive phase of the arm stroke, the laws of inertia in the arm-stroke recovery, etc. Together they put out the first teaching film on the dolphin-butterfly.

Bill Yorzyk (USA) 1971

First Olympic butterfly Champion, 1956 U.S. National Champion and high point winner.



  • Olympians