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by Scott Rabalais

July 19, 2000

1960 breaststroke Olympian

Bill Mulliken (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1984. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:

For the Record: 1960 Olympic gold (200-meter breast). 1959 Pan Am Games: gold (200-meter breast). One A.A.U. Nationals: (220-yard breast). One N.C.A.A. Championship: (200-yard breast). Five American records (200-yard, 200-meter and 220-yard breast).

Sometimes it's not so much who you beat as when you beat them. That's the case for Bill Mulliken, the Chicago lawyer and Masters swimmer. Mulliken is credited by 196O U.S. Olympic coach, Gus Stager, with the surprise Olympic gold medal that inspired the U.S. team to beat the favored Australians. The United States had not won an Olympic breaststroke since 1924, yet nobody should have been too surprised noting Mulliken's past record. While it was true that Mulliken only occasionally beat the Michigan and Indiana breaststrokers in U.S. collegiate or AAU competition, he had, on occasion, beaten everybody at everything. As his coach Raymond Ray so proudly put it, "Bill has held, at one time or another, the National Collegiate 200-yard breaststroke record, the National Indoor 220-yard breaststroke record, the Pan-American 200-meter and the Olympic 200-meter breaststroke records." Ray might have added the U.S. Olympic trials, for without this one more unexpected win, Bill Mulliken would not have been in Rome to put Australia in his “Mulliken stew.” Welcome, Bill Mulliken, to the International Swimming Hall of Fame where winners are always remembered.

from Swim magazine

1960 - ROME

While Jeff Farrell was a prohibitive favorite to make the Olympic team prior to the Trials, Bill Mulliken was a virtual unknown. At Nationals two weeks before Trials, he finished as the fourth American in the 200-meter breaststroke.

The favorite in the 200-meter breast at Trials was Ron Clark. However, Clark was disqualified during qualifying heats for an illegal turn. Only one 200-meter breaststroke swimmer would be taken to Rome, the U.S. Olympic Committee decided, since no American had been ranked in the top 25 in the world in 1959. Holding off a stiff challenge from Chet Jastremski, an up-and-coming talent, Mulliken earned his ticket to Italy.

In the prelims, Mulliken startled the swimming world with an American record and top-seeded time of 2:38.0, only 1.5 seconds shy of the world record. In the semi-final, he was placed next to favorite Yoshihiko Osaki, now president of Japan Masters Swimming. "At the 150-meter mark during the semi-final, I was struck by the `light of Zeus'," says Mulliken. Effortlessly, he "walked across the finish" in 2:37.2, an American and Olympic record.

Prior to mounting the blocks for the final, Mulliken recalls Coach Peter Daland shouting, "Bill, you can do it"! And he did. Although Osaki paced off Mulliken and made a last-50 surge, it wasn't enough to win. Mulliken had traveled the journey from dark horse to thoroughbred champion in a few short weeks. Mulliken won the final in 2:37.4

So unexpected was the victory that on the night following the victory, Mulliken awakened during a dream in which he had lost his race. "My roommate told me that I went to the armoire in my room and opened it to make sure I had won the gold medal," he says. "Then I crawled back into bed and went to sleep."

by Scott Rabalais , SWIM magzine, July-August 1996

Bill Mulliken lives in Bedford Park, Ill., and swims for Illinois Masters.




  • Olympians