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Adolf Keifer

Adolf Kiefer

Adolph Kiefer became the first man to break the one-minute mark in the 100yd back while competing as a 16-year old in the Illinois High School Championships of 1936. One year and 23 records later, Kiefer represented the US at the Berlin Summer Olympics. Kiefer came home an Olympic champion with a Gold Medal and began touring with other medalists throughout Europe, China, Japan, and South America, during which he challenged every great swimmer in the world to an individual race. In over 2,000 such races, Adolph lost only twice. Shortly thereafter, Adolph was asked to audition for the role of Tarzan but answered the call of arms instead, joining the US Navy to serve as a chief petty officer. He quickly moved through the ranks, becoming a first lieutenant by the war’s end. When the Navy realized that it was losing more lives to drowning than to enemy bullets, Adolph was appointed to a committee tasked with setting new guidelines for safety and training. During the remainder of his service, Adolph taught water survival to more than 33,000 Naval personnel.

In 1946, Kiefer established Adolph Kiefer & Associates in Chicago, which has been providing swimmers with training and safety equipment ever since. His company was responsible for the development of the Nylon Tank Suit in 1948, a marked improvement over the wool and cotton suits available at that time.

Adolph subsequently devoted himself to community service, combining swimming and philanthropy in extremely innovative ways. In the 1960s, he worked with Mayor Richard J. Daley building swimming pools across the inner city of Chicago to provide needed facilities for thousands of children to both learn to swim and come together as a community. One of the first inductees into the Swimming Hall of Fame, Adolph, who will be 90 this year, has maintained this charitable and active mindset. He has participated as a sexagenarian and octogenarian in our Chicago SAA events. 

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