William Dickey, Olympic Plunge for Distance Gold Medalist, 1904 St. Louis Olympic Games

Courtesy of WOWSA, Life Saving Exhibition Lake, St. Louis, Missouri.

Many open water swimmers can be defined as fascinating people on dryland.

At the initial Olympic 10K Marathon Swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the marathon swimming finalists included Dr. Edith van Dijk who is a Knight in the Order of Orange Nassau with a Doctorate in Economy from Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Natalie du Toit who was the first amputee to make an Olympic swimming final.

The back stories on all of the Olympic finalists were interesting from Maarten van der Weijden who was the first leukemia survivor to win an Olympic gold medal to Petar Stoychev who later served as the Minister of Sport of his native Bulgaria and took the ice swimming world by storm.

This history of talented Olympic swimmers who lead incredible lives on dryland started over 100 years ago.

Looking back at history, the 1904 St. Louis Olympic Games had a plunge for distance event that was only held once in Olympic history.  Formally, the athletes competed to see how far they could dive from a stationary take-off while gliding face downward for 60 seconds without any propulsion from the arms and legs.  The aquatic discipline – that was held in Life Saving Exhibition Lake in Forest Park, St. Louis – originated in England and the rules came from the English Plunging Championship around 1893.

While the sport was popular in the early part of the 20th century, it later was criticized by Gerald Barnes, author of Swimming and Diving, as a competition favoring “mere mountains of fat who fall in the water more or less successfully and depend upon inertia to get their points for them.”

While there were only five Americans were participated in the Plunge for Distance event, the three medalists were all members of the New York Athletic Club and were interesting individuals.<br/

1904 Olympic Plunge for Distance Results:
Gold: William Dickey USA 19.05m (62 feet, 6 inches)
Silver: Edgar Adams USA 17.53m
Bronze: Budd Goodwin USA 17.37m

During World War I, gold medalist Dickey served as an assistant engineer for the US Navy. He and his wife moved near Clearwater, Florida in their later years. For his military service, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Silver medalist Adams is best known as a numismatic scholar, author, journalist, editor, coin collector and dealer.  In 1880, he was severely injured when a shotgun blast accidentally hit him in the leg, leaving him with difficulty walking and requiring use of a cane for the rest of his life. To overcome this disability, he took up swimming.

After the 1904 Olympics, Adams began writing a column for New York newspapers and publishing articles in The Numismatist. He later became the editor and publisher of this magazine.  Adams later wrote several books on coin collecting. In 1969, the American Numismatic Association named Edgar Adams to its Hall of Fame.

Bronze medalist Goodwin worked for his father for many years on their Manhattan Island excursion ferry. He later won a Congressional Medal for bravery for a daring sea rescue in Newport News, Virginia. He retired to the Palm Beach area where he continued to swim recreationally.

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