Friesel, Paul : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Friesel, Paul

Paul B. Friesel


Country Represented:
United States

Years Competed:

Olympic Info:
Despite making the U.S. Olympics swimming team, Friesel boycotted the 1936 Games to protest the Nazis.

Career Highlights:
A breaststroke swimmer in the early 1930s, Friesel began experimenting with a new style of the stroke that had been invented by his friend, Henry Myers. In 1934, the year after Myers invented the stroke, Friesel improved his best 100-yards time by over five seconds when he used the "butterfly breastroke." He then broke the American long course 100-meter record (1:18.2) in the summer of 1934, and lowered his own record the following year to 1:15.5.

Initially held to be illegal, many ridiculed the new stroke, but Friesel helped promote it into an accepted style by breaking records and winning meets. He later claimed to have coined the new stroke's name: the "butterfly." Using the butterfly, Friesel established a number of records which were unfortunately not recognized because the swimming world still considered the stroke illegal. Eventually, some of his marks were accepted as the butterfly became a recognized stroke; it was first used in the Olympics in 1956.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. March 27, 1911 - d. March 20, 1998

New York City

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)