New York Times : Origin
of Crawl Stroke, 1912.
New York Times: Origin
of Crawl Stroke.
December 6 1912, page 13.
OF CRAWL STROKE. Australian
Gave First Idea and Americans Improved on it.
the ninth anniversary ot the origin ot the "American crawI,"
stroke that has placed American athletes at the top of the
world in sprint
The year 1903
was a memorable one in aquatics at the New York Athletic Club. C. M. Daniels
had only just begun to attract attention, but the Mercury Foot
Fred Wenck, Charles Ruberl, Otto Wahle, L. de B. Handley,
George Van Cleaf,
Ted Kitching, and a few others, who not only could sweep clean
ot championship events, but formed a coterie of watermen well
the science of natatlon and deeply engrossed in the study of
its principles. Indeed, the
practice was never complete without a general discussion of
of advancing the art of swimming.
in December, while the little group was holdIng Its usual
Wahle came upon the scene wIth a descrlptlon of the crawl,
an Australian paper. Cavill had
been doing sensational work with it, and little else was
talked about among
swlmmers. Unluckily the description was written by some one
who did not
know the subject and it was impossible to make head or tail of
at that time all-around champion, had an inspiration.
"Why, the leg
thrash that man talks about," he exclaimed, "would just fit a
of Gus Sundstrom's swordfish stroke." Sundstrom was
then, and is still, the club's swimming instructor, and he can
yards without using his hands almost as fast as can a good
the crawl. He holds his
arms motionless above hIs head and beats up and down with his
legs in rapid,
narrow, alternative drives. He learned the
trick in the South Seas and has styled it the swordfish
Ruberl's exclamation everyone saw the similarity to CavIll's
Sundstrom was asked to give an exhibition, and then and there
most of the
clubmen attempted to imitate him. Some
and without hesitation took up the task of practicing the new
others were unable to master them, and gave it up. The former
the continuous thrash with the long straight-arm reach of the
and in a couple of months had clipped several seconds from
yard performances. Van Cleaf and
Kitching in particular negotiated the half century around
better time than had yet been shown.
News of these
achievements spread fast, and the OIympic games of 1904 in St.
swimmers of all sections an opportunity to see the Mercury
Footers in action,
and by Fall that year schools of crawlers had been formed
was not converted until a year later, when be went abroad to
the championship of England, and saw the stroke used by
It is worthy of
note that, following his second meeting with Cecil Healy, the
in 1906, both he and the Sydney champion altered their style
in some detail,
to conform with the others, so that they now swim practically
Since the advent
ot the crawl in 1903 it has been considerably improved, but
leg drive copied from Sundstrom has suffered small change, and
who at first lifted the leg high out of the water, have now
Doubtless we owe
to Cavill the idea; but for his success we would never have
conceived it. Still,when all
is told, it was Americans who evolved and perfected the
narrow leg trash.