Scheff, Otto : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Scheff, Otto

swimming, water polo

Country Represented:

Years Competed:
1906, 1908, 1912

Medals Received:
gold, bronze

Olympic Info:
One of the world's greatest swimmers in the early decades of the 20th century, Scheff competed in three Olympiads for Austria. In 1906, Scheff competed in the "Intercalated Games" held in Athens to renew interest in the Olympic Games. Scheff won a gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle (6:28.3), and a bronze in the one-mile race. Although considered "unofficial," the Games attracted 900 athletes from 20 countries, including for the first time, an official U.S. team chosen by the Olympic Committee (the 1904 St. Louis Games had only 681 athletes, and 525 were from the U.S.).

Two years later at the 1908 London Games, Scheff competed in his first "official" Olympiad and swam in three events. In the 400-meter freestyle, he won his first three races (including his semifinal heat), and then finished third in the final (5:46.0) to win the bronze medal. In the 100-meter freestyle, he won his preliminary heat but finished fourth in the semifinals and did not advance to the final. In the 1,000-meter freestyle, he reached the final and was leading the race after two lengths, but retired from the race due to exhaustion.

Scheff's final Olympiad was the 1912 Stockholm Games as a member of Austria's water polo team. The competition consisted of six teams and because of the seeding, Austria advanced to the final match after defeating Hungary (5-4) in the first round (Scheff scored the game-winning goal). In the final, the Austrian team lost to Great Britain, 8-0, and the British were awarded the gold medal. The Austrians then played Sweden for the silver medal and lost 8-1. Their final chance at a medal was against Belgium, but they lost the bronze medal game, 5-4, and finished in fourth place.

Career Highlights:
Scheff, a terrific freestyle swimmer, held the world record in the 1000-meter freestyle from 1908-1912. He was the Austrian National champion in the 100-meter freestyle in 1908, the 200-meter freestyle in 1905-06 and 1908-09, in the 400-meter freestyle in 1910, the 500-meter freestyle in 1905-1908, and the 1,500-meter freestyle in 1908 (also German champion that year) and 1909. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1988 as a pioneer swimmer.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Dec. 12, 1889 - d. Oct. 26, 1956

Berlin, Germany

Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Jewish Almanac, edited by Richard Siegel and Carl Rheins (New York: Bantam Books, 1980)
The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000, (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999)