One of the greatest Jewish swimmers in Olympic history, Wahle competed in two Olympiads for Austria. At the 1900 Paris Games, the swimming events were held in the Seine River, and Wahle won the silver medal in the 1000-meter freestyle (14:53.6), and the 200-meter obstacle race (2:40.0). In the 200-meter freestyle, Wahle made the finals, but did not medal.
Wahle returned to the Olympics at the 1904 St. Louis Games, and won the bronze medal in the 440-yard freestyle race (6:39.0), finished fourth in the 1500-meter freestyle, and fifth in the 880-yard freestyle. He then coached the American Olympic swim team in 1912 and 1920. He was also head coach of the U.S. water polo team in 1920.
Wahle was the Austrian champion in the 100-meter freestyle (1896, 1899, and German champion in 1897), the 200-meter freestyle (1899, 1900), 500-meter freestyle (1897), and one-mile freestyle (1898, 1899). At the turn of the century, Wahle emigrated to the United States, and although he continued to compete for Austria internationally, he wore the colors of the New York Athletic Club in American competitions.
After becoming a coach, Wahle played an important role in the growth of swimming in the United States. Along with Louis deBreda Handley, Wahle helped develop the "American crawl" while at the NYAC. The American crawl was distinguished by a fast leg kick and a more stretched out arm action, and there was no conscious timing between arms and legs. For the first time in the history of swimming, a stroke was used in which the legs were independent of the arm stroke, resulting in a more relaxed, free-flowing action.
Wahle and Handley found the perfect student in Charles M. Daniels. Between 1903-1905, Daniels developed his strength before learning the new crawl and modifying it to suit his own needs. Daniels eventually won four Olympic gold medals for the United States and became America's first great swimming champion. Wahle coached Daniels during his entire career (1903-1911), and Daniels defeated Wahle in the 440-yard freestyle at the 1904 Olympics! Other swimmers, particularly those who learned the crawl as their first stroke, were able to swim further without undue strain. In 1907, Daniels wrote a book called Speed Swimming with the assistance of Wahle and Handley. It remains one of the most authoritative books on the early development of the American crawl stroke.
Wahle also contributed many of the rules first listed in early AAU manuals (he was a member of the AAU Committee), which were modeled on those of the Amateur Swimming Association of England. Otto coached George S. Patton in the 1912 Olympics, and was also an International Record Compiler at later Olympiads. In 1968, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a pioneer swimmer. He is also a member of the United States Water Polo Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Nov. 5, 1879 - d. Aug.11, 1963
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000, (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999)