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by Author Unknown

July 19, 2000

First to go under a minute for 100 meter fly

Lance Larson (USA) was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1980. The following text was included in the program for the induction ceremony of that year:

For the Record: 1960 Olympic silver (100-meter freestyle) and gold (medley relay, butterfly leg). Three world records (100-meter and 110-yard butterfly) and two world record relays. Five National AAU titles (100 freestyle, 100 butterfly and 200 IM) and three National AAU relays. Two NCAA Championships (200-yard IM and 400-yard freestyle relay). Twelve American records (200-meter and 200-yard IM, 110-yard and 100-meter butterfly and six freestyle relays). First man to break a minute for the 100-meter butterfly.

Lance Larson was the first man in the world to go under a minute for the 100-meter butterfly. He was also the first high school swimmer to break the 50 second barrier in the 100 yard freestyle. He won his Olympic gold medal on the butterfly leg of the 400-meter medley relay with a split time of 58.0 seconds (another world record) at the 1960 Rome Olympics, yet is best known for the controversy over his dead-heat 100-meter freestyle silver medal in the same games, the last in which judges' eyeball decisions were given precedence over automatic timing devices*. A superb all-around swimmer at the University of Southern California in the four-stroke individual medley, the butterfly, and the freestyle sprint, Larson won AAU Nationals in all three.

*The Rome Olympics were staged in the days before automatic timing and judging. In the closing stages of the 100-meter freestyle Larson, in an adjacent lane to Devitt, had surged forward with amazing speed. Two of the three first place judges gave Devitt their vote. Two of the second place judges put Devitt second. Of the six officials there, three by implication thought the Australian had won and three favored the American. The timekeepers had no doubt. They gave Larson 55.0, 55.1 and 55.1 against the 55.2 and 55.2 for Devitt. The unofficial manually-operated judging machine which recorded the touch on three paper tapes made Larson the clear winner. Despite all this evidence, Devitt was awarded the gold in an Olympic record of 55.2 thanks to a vote cast by the referee who technically did not have a vote! Larson got the silver and his time changed to 55.2. Pat Besford, "Encyclopedia of Swimming"



  • Olympians