Courtesy of British Pathé.
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
There are few dual Hall of Fame inductees in history. A dual inductee includes a very limited number of athletes who are in two of the aquatic Hall of Fames: International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF) and the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame.
Martha Maria Norelius is one of those dual inductees. She passed away at a young 44 years (1911-1955) after a surgery, but the Swedish-born American swimmer certainly made the most of her time in the water.
The Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder in five freestyle events was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1967 and in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1984. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, she was coached by her father, Swedish Olympic swimmer Charles Norelius.
At the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, he was offered a position in Florida to train the American swimming team.
His daughter became good friends with Johnny Weissmüller also trained under him. Both Weissmüller and Norelius represented the USA at the 1924 Paris Olympics where she won the gold medal in the women’s 400-meter freestyle, setting a new Olympic record (6:02.2) at the age of 15. She beat fellow Americans Helen Wainwright (6:03.8) and Gertrude Ederle (6:04.8) in her Olympic debut.
At the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, she won another gold in the 400-meter freestyle, breaking her own record with a new world record of 5:42.8, defeating Dutch swimmer Marie Braun by 15 seconds. In the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay, she won her third gold medal and helped set a new world record in 4:47.6.
Between 1925 and 1929, Norelius won 11 national titles and set 19 world and 30 American records.
She was suspended from amateur competition in 1929 because she gave an exhibition in the same pool with professional swimmers, so she turned professional and won US$10,000 in the 16 km (10-mile) Wrigley Marathon in Toronto in her open water debut to leave quite a legacy in the water.
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