Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Pioneering Open Water Hero - Bill Sadlo, Jr.

John J. Morrisey provided us with information on William 'Bill' Sadlo Jr., one of the pioneers of marathon swimming. Bill competed in over 30 marathon swims between 1927 to 1957 and was a founding member of the International Professional Swimmers Association while directing swimming programs in New York City for three decades.

Bill was the Vice President of the International Professional Swimmers Association that was established in September 1927 at the McAlpin Hotel in New York City.

Other founding members of the International Professional Swimmers Association included International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductees such asWilliam Wrigley, Jr., Norman Ross and Ernest 'The Black Shark' Vierkoetter.

Among his many open water swims, Bill participated in the 3-mile President's Cup Race across the Potomac River between 1922 and 1925 and the 3.5 mile NYC Metropolitan AAU Senior Long Distance Championship at Camp Ruddy. In 1930, Bill swam the 11.6 miles from Coney Island to the Battery in Manhattan, in 3 hours and 39 minutes, and finished seventh in the 1948 Lake George, New York 12-mile race at the age of 46.

Prior to his documented swim from Battery Park to Liberty Island in New York City in 1930, Bill had attemped the same swim in 1925, only to be carried out by a swift ebb tide. Friends and patrol boats searched for him without success, but later found him at the starting point several hours later. In an effort to make himself more visible to passing harbor boats, Bill proclaimed to make the journey in the nude.

1927 marked the beginning of Bill’s marathon swimming when he swam the first of four 28.5-mile races around Manhattan Island, winning in 1928 when he was the only swimmer to finish.

Bill also participated in 20, all but one, of the Canadian National Exhibition long distance swims in Toronto between 1927 and 1955, ranging from 5 to 32 miles with third being his highest finish in 1949 when only three swimmers completed the famously difficult race. Given the nickname 'The Swimming Grandfather' in Canada, he remained competitive with younger swimmers into his 50's.

Bill made two successful Great Lakes crossings in the 1950s. At age 52, he competed in a 31.7-mile race across Lake Erie from Point Pelee Park, Canada to the Cedar Point Resort in Sandusky, Ohio in 15 hours and 30 minutes. In 1957, he became the oldest person to successfully swim 32 miles across Lake Ontario from Fort Niagara, New York to Toronto, Canada.

Bill also participated in the inaugural 22.5-mile swim around Abescon Island in Atlantic City in 1954 where he finished a respectable 11th place at age 52 against the best swimmers of that era.

Bill was truly a swimmer who epitomized the spirit of marathon swimming while dedicating his life to teaching swimming to others.

Photo of Bill Sadlo Jr. from the Solo Swims website, an authoritative source for many marathon swimming facts and features.

Copyright © 2009 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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