Ernest Vierkoetter, Swimming As The Black Shark

Courtesy of Lee Shimano, Canadian National Exhibition.

Lee Shimano is an author, historian, and a leading collector of memorabilia from the Canadian National Exhibition provides a variety of historical documents and perspective on the richest and most competitive open water races of the 20th century.

The author of the Treasures of the CNE: Memorabilia and Tales from the Canadian National Exhibition has photos of cherished memorabilia from the CNE that gives valuable insights and information from the pro swims in the 1920’s and 1930’s.

One of the stars of the CNA was Ernest Vierkoetter of Cologne, Germany. The German swimmer was known as the Black Shark as he coated himself with black axle grease before his swims and was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978 as an Honor Swimmer.

In 1926, he became the fastest person to cross the 33.5 km English Channel in 12 hours 40 minutes. He swam in the 1927 Lake George Marathon Swim and was a member of the International Professional Swimmers Association. At the age of 26, he won the first Canadian National Exhibition professional marathon swim over 174 swimmers from around the world. He finished the 33 km course in 11 hours 45 minutes in water that ranged from 6.7°-8.9°C (44°-48°F). He placed second in the 1928 Canadian National Exhibition race and fifth in the 1930 Canadian National Exhibition race.

He eventually moved from Germany to Toronto to open a swimming instruction school. Until the time of his death in 1967, he served as the coach of the Baraca Club and an official of the Canadian National Exhibition Swims.

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