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by Scott Rabalais

July 19, 2000

First to swim under 50 for 100 meter free

Jim Montgomery (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1986. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:

THE RECORD: 1976 Olympic gold (100-meter free), bronze (200-meter free) and two gold relays. World Championship: 1973 gold (100-, and 200-meter free) and three gold relays. 1975 bronze (100-meter free) and two gold relays. 1978 silver (100-meter free) and two gold relays. Three N.C.A.A. Championship (100-, and 200-yard free) and five relays. Seven A.A.U. Championship: (100-yard, 200-yard, 100-meter, 200-meter free) and four relays. Four world records: (100-meter free) and seven relays.

Jim Montgomery was the first man to swim 100 meters freestyle under 50 seconds (49.99). Breaking this barrier was equivalent to Roger Bannister's four-minute mile in track. That Montgomery did it while winning an Olympic gold medal (July 25, 1976) at Montreal is a double dose of immortality. He won two more golds and a bronze in those Olympics, but his record as king of the World Championships is still more phenomenal. He won a record five golds in the first World Championships at Belgrade in 1973 and repeated with four golds, a silver and a bronze in Cali 1975 and Berlin 1978.

Jim was a sprinter but he also won and set American records at 200 meters and even took the 2.4 mile Waikiki Roughwater Ocean swim nine years after his retirement from college and U.S.S. swimming.

Montgomery's principal coaches were Jack Pettinger in Madison and Doc Counsilman at Indiana. He was a mental swimmer and believes concentration and goal setting make the difference. He got a bad case of infectious mononucleosis in 1973 which rested him up for the world championships and made him decide he was a sprinter. He coached the Lone Star Masters which won the Masters nationals in his first year of coaching. An honor business school graduate, Jim Montgomery is marketing what he knows best, aquatics and fitness at all ages and throughout the world.

from Swim magazine:


At the 1976 trials in Long Beach, Jim Montgomery's first event was the 200 free, where he barely qualified for the final, finishing eighth. At night, he moved up to third, earning him a spot on the 4 x 200 relay team. "I was training more for the 100, and I was the favorite in that event," he recalls. As expected, Montgomery won the 100 free, which earned him a berth on the 4 x 100 medley relay. No 4 x 100 free relay was on the Olympic agenda in 1976, eliminated, as Montgomery says, "by Olympic politics."

In Montreal, he was three-for-four, winning golds in the 100 free and in both relays, and earning bronze in the 200 free. All three winning times were world and Olympic records, and Montgomery became the first swimmer to break 50 seconds in the 100-meter free, clocking 49.99 seconds. "We had the most successful swim team ever," says Montgomery. "We had a winning attitude and incredible support for one another. We were there to overwhelm the competition and nobody gave excuses."

SWIM magazine, July-August 1996


James Paul Montgomery

Jim Montgomery was born in 1955 in Madison, Wisconsin. He lived there until the age of 18. Jim learned to swim when he was two years old, and started competing in the Summer Country Club League when he was seven and eight. He swam for the Madison Downtown YMCA between the ages of nine and 14, competing in the winter only. When he was 14, he switched over to Badger Dolphin Swim Club and was coached by Jack Pettinger during the summer. He competed for Madison East High School and won six state championships, twice each year as a sophomore, junior and senior. He became an All-American his senior year in high school in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles and was awarded a full scholarship to Indiana University, swimming under James "Doc" Counsilman.

Jim graduated with honors at the Indiana University School of Business and received the Belfour award as the top student athlete in the Big Ten Conference. In his swimming career he has held 10 world records and won nine world championships, 14 national titles and seven N.C.A.A. titles and was the first man ever to break 50 seconds in the 100-meter freestyle. His early swimming memories are taking the public bus to swim practice after school and the bus trips and swim meets to YMCAs around Southern Wisconsin.

Jim first became involved in Masters in 1981 after he finished USA swimming competition. Jim said that because of the 1980 Olympic boycott he retired for six months and gained 25 pounds. His self-esteem was slipping and he decided that he missed swimming. "I got in shape and competed in USMS Short Course Nationals in 1981," he said. That same year he founded the Dallas Aquatic Masters (DAM) and has built and is part owner of a program that offers 50 coached practices per week. From 1988 to 1990 Jim was responsible for designing and starting an adult fitness program at the Baylor Aquatic Center located at the Baylor-Tom Landry Center in Dallas, and served as its director from 1990 to 1999. Since 1998, Jim has also served as the Aquatics Director and Head Varsity Swim Coach at Greenhill School in Dallas.

His most memorable Masters competitions were competing in the first Masters Worlds meet in Tokyo in 1986 and competing in the Masters World Championships in Montreal, Canada in 1994. It was the first time he had returned to the pool where he had won three golds and a bronze in the 1976 Olympics. He has won 14 Masters world championships.

Jim says that his reasons for competing are that he loves to travel and meet new friends, and it is the best exercise in the world, other than cycling. Swimming keeps him at top physical condition. He tries to compete in two competitions per year, one pool and one open-water. In the 1980s and early 1990s he competed in many national and world championships. In the last 10 years he has enjoyed competing in open-water events such as the Maui Channel Swim, the La Jolla Roughwater, the Waikiki Roughwater, the Alcatraz, the Chesapeake Bay swim, and Race across St. Tropez in France.

He credits coaches Jack Pettinger and Doc Counsilman and business partner Bobby Patten for getting him to train harder. His goal is to keep showing up at world championships, since he says "I live to travel."

Jim keeps a heavy training schedule for competition, swimming five times per week averaging 3,500 meters of middle distance sprint freestyle sets. To maintain fitness he swims twice a week, bikes twice a week and does weight training once a week.

Jim has been active in USMS at the national level when he started MACA, the Masters Coaching Association, in the 1980s and has attended several national conventions, including the Dallas convention in 2002.

He married his wife Diane in January 1992. She does not swim, but supports his swimming activities. They have five children, two stepsons, Taylor, 24 and Chase, 21, two daughters Ann (17), Ellis (17), and one more son Beau (11), who is the only one competitive and just swims periodically.



  • Olympians