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Obituary Archive

Remembering Peter Daland

By Bruce Wigo and Bob Duenkel


The swimming world has lost a great man.  While Peter Daland’s coaching record speaks for itself, the International Swimming Hall of Fame will remember Peter as a historian who learned about the history and development of competitive swimming in the USA and around the world the old fashioned way – through his own eyes and ears and not through research in a library.


Photo at left:  Putting his footprints in cement during his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978.


Phil Whitten, who was editor-in-chief of Swimming World Magazine for many years and who collaborated with coach Daland on his Olympic Swimming History series, once told me a great story he made up about Peter.  It went like this….


During WWII, Peter was captured by the Germans, who turned him over to the Gestapo to find out what he knew.  Peter’s hands were tied behind his back. He was strapped to a chair, deprived of water and sleep and a lamp, hot and bright, was in his face.  After twenty-four hours, the interrogation abruptly ended as the exhausted Germans got up and left Peter alone in the room. A short time later, they returned.  “Mr. Daland,” you know we have ways of making people stop talking!”


While this story is fictional, it illustrates the point that Peter was an aquatic storyteller nonpareil.  True stories that no others could tell, for as ISHOF’s long-time Executive Director and Curator says: “Through Peter's own experiences and from the first hand stories of the people he knew, he was the last living link to the history of competitive swimming in the Olympic Games from 1896 to 2012.”


It Started in Philadelphia


In 1944, a group of swimming enthusiasts formed the Philadelphia Swimming Directors Society, one of the first age group swimming organizations established in the USA. The idea was to prepare boys for high school competition. Among the founders of this “Jr. Swim League” were Charles Roeser, Chairman of the US Olympic Swimming Committee, R. Max Ritter, Honorary Secretary of FINA and Professor Robert Kiphuth, the legendary coach of Yale.  Olympic rowing champion, John B. Kelly Sr. contributed all the awards for the Championships.  At the time, Peter Daland was captain of the Swarthmore College team.  In 1948, the greatest all around swimmer in the world was Joe Verdeur, of Lasalle College, in Philadelphia, 1936 Olympic great Jack Medica was the head coach of Penn and when the 1948 and 1949 Jr. league championships were held, they were televised!  This was the environment for swimming in Philadelphia when Peter made his decision to pursue a career in coaching swimmers.


With the help of his Philadelphia connections, Peter attended the1948 London Olympic Games.  When he returned, he formed the Suburban swim club out of summer league and country club teams in the Newtown Square suburb of Philadelphia. Beginning in 1952, while still coaching Suburban, Peter would travel to New Haven, Ct. and work for Bob Kiphuth, doing various tasks, including collecting results from around the world for the new mimeographed publication, Swimming World and then his own “age group” magazine, Junior Swimmer. It was at Yale, working under and alongside coaches Kiphuth, Harry Burke and Phil Moriarty where Peter said he learned the fundamentals of the “ART of Coaching” and “the ART of recruiting.”


California, the program had been in decline. Cady had grown up in Philly, while working as a circus acrobat and strong man, he also coached swimmers at the Philadelphia Turngeminde, a German-American sports club. Among his swimmers were Olga Dorfner, the first American woman to break a world swimming record, and the future wife of Olympic rower, John B. Kelly, Sr..  In 1918, while touring southern California, Cady was offered the position of swimming and diving instructor at the LAAC.  Later, in 1925, he started the swimming and diving team at USC.  Along with Kiphuth, who was the USA Olympic swimming coach from 1928 – 1948, Cady was the USA Olympic Diving Coach those same years. Armed with Kiphuth’s recommendation, Cady lobbied the LAAC for Peter. To sweeten the pot, Cady also offered to hire him as his freshman coach at USC for $600 a year. Peter was hired in March of 1956 and immediately got results, coaching the LAAC women to a second place national finish at the 1956 AAU outdoor nationals, which were held in Philadelphia.


While he had been at Yale, Peter had seen Kiphuth recruit Australia’s superstar John Marshall, who in 1951 had won every Australian national freestyle title from the 100 meter freestyle to the 1500 meters.  So when Peter attended the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, he set his sights on recruiting Australian Olympic champions Murray Rose and John Hendricks to USC.  While USC had a great swimming tradition dating to 1932 Olympic Champion Buster Crabbe, the Trojans were anything but a powerhouse in 1956, scoring only two points at the NCAA Championships and they trained in a pool appropriately named “the dungeon.”  But somehow, Peter was able to get both of these Australian superstars to USC.  Behind these two swimmers, Peter’s USC frosh team topped Kiphuth’s New Haven Swim Club at the 1958 AAU National Championships, and the rest, as they say, is history.


The Historian


Peter always had an interest in history.  Perhaps, it came from Swarthmore, where James Michener was a fellow alum, was inborn as part of his Philadelphia DNA or came from meeting the cast of characters he met in his early days in swimming.  Men like Lou de B. Handley (1904 Olympic Champion, legendary coach of the Woman’s Swimming Association of New York and freelance coach at Yale), R. Max Ritter (Founding member of FINA in 1908 and FINA President in 1960), Fred Cady, who also coached Duke Kahanamoku among many others, and Kiphuth. From these men, Peter met the makers of swimming history, heard their stories and would later repeat them.  He was literally a walking encyclopedia of Olympic swimming history and anecdotes.  After his induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, in 1978, Peter became an active member of the Selection Committee and was able to place every modern swimmer into their historical context, comparing the likes of his great swimmer John Naber to Adolph Kiefer and Warren Keoloah from the past and to Lenny Krazleburg and Aarron Peirsol in turn. He attended many induction ceremonies at the ISHOF and with the help of his wife, Ingrid, he was still downloading his accrued knowledge of Olympic Swimming history to Phil Whitten until his 93rd year.  It is our hope that his legacy to swimming, in the form of the completion of what he started will one day be finished in his memory.


As Buck Dawson used to say, "Old swimmers and coaches never die and they don't fade away - because they will always be remembered in the Swimming Hall of Fame."  Thank you Peter. Rest in Peace.

Photo:  Peter Daland accepting Middle Atlantic AAU Championship award in 1956 from John B. Kelly, Sr.


A Move to California


Sensing the future of American swimming was in California, and fresh off leading his Suburban team to the Middle Atlantic Senior Championships, Peter applied for the open coaching position at the Los Angles Athletic Club.  The LAAC had a storied history but since Hall of Famer Fred Cady had resigned to focus on his team at the University of Southern

Photo:  Peter and Ingrid Daland with Bruce Wigo and Bob Duenkel at the ISHOF in 2012.

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