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Al Vande Weghe

Sport: Swimming

Born: July 28, 1916

Died: August 13, 2002

Town: Paterson

Albert Joseph Vande Weghe was born July 28, 1916 in Rockaway Beach, NY and grew up in Paterson. A powerfully built teenager, he was a champion swimmer as a boy and, by the time he was a senior at the Hun School, the nation’s top backstroker. Al set new world records in the 100 meters and 220-yard backstroke. He was the first swimmer to break the one-minute mark in the 100-yard backstroke and, in 1934, introduced the flip-turn to his sport.

Al made the 1936 Olympic team in the 100 meter backstroke and advanced to finals, where Japan’s Masaji Kiyokawa was the favorite. Fellow American Adolph Kiefer won the race, with Al passing Kiyokawa in the last few meters to win a silver medal. He was honored as New Jersey top amateur athlete in 1936.

VandeWeghe2Upon his return, Al enrolled at Princeton, where he was a member of the swimming and diving squads. He was the NCAA 150-yard backstroke champion in 1938, 1939 and 1940, and a member of two other #1 medley teams. Al was named the state’s top collegiate athlete in 1939 and Princeton’s best scholar-athlete in 1940.

Al also won three AAU individual titles while in college, and three more as a member of a legendary medley team that included Dick Hough and Hank Van Oss. Al was undefeated at Princeton and would have been the favorite for gold at the 1940 Olympics, but they were cancelled because of World War II.

Al graduated with a chemical engineering degree and served in the war. Afterwards he took a job with DuPont, and worked for the company until 1975. He continued to compete at the Masters level, winning several national titles, including the 50 meters at age 81, which he swam in 47.4 seconds. In 1990, Al was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He was enshrined in the US Swimming Hall of Fame in 1995. Al passed away in Tulsa, OK in 2002 at the age of 86.


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