John Kinsella

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Olympian John Kinsella in lac St-Jean
Olympian John Kinsella
Sports Illustrated article on the Pepsi Challenge Marathon Swim in August 1978
Sports Illustrated article on the Pepsi Challenge Marathon Swim in August 1978
John Kinsella of Hinsdale, Illinois, a renowned Olympic pool swimmer and professional marathon swimmer.

Kinsella is inducted in both the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1978 as an Honour Swimmer and in the International Swimming Hall of Fame also as an Honor Swimmer in 1986. Kinsella is known by his nickname the American Torpedo among his professional marathon swimming competitors and The Machine among the American swimming community for his voracious appetite for grueling training sessions.

Kinsella dominated the professional marathon swimming circuit in the 1970’s after winning a silver medal in the 1500-meter freestyle at the 1968 Olympics and a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle relay. He started the decade by winning the Amateur Athletic Union's James E. Sullivan Award for America’s outstanding amateur athlete while still a senior in high school and ended the decade by swimming in a professional English Channel race in 1979.

He won every major professional marathon swimming race he entered, including the 32 km (20-mile) Traversée Internationale du lac St-Jean professional race in 7 hours 54 minutes in 1974, in 7 hours 36 minutes in 1975, in 7 hours 18 minutes in 1976, in 7 hours 32 minutes in 1977, in 7 hours 13 minutes in 1978 and in 7 hours 1 minute in 1979, and twice the 24 Heures La Tuque with Sandra Bucha, and the 1978 Pepsi Challenge Marathon Swim in Lake Ontario in 13 hours 49 minutes where he was coached by Don Watson.

International Swimming Hall of Fame

Kinsella's International Swimming Hall of Fame induction description is as follows:

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1968 silver (1500m freestyle); 1972 gold (relay); WORLD RECORDS: 4 (400m, 1500m freestyle; 2 relays); AAU NATIONALS 11 (200yd, 400yd, 500yd 1650ye, 400m 1500m, 4 mile freestyle); NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: 6 (500yd, 1650yd freestyle; 2 relays); AMERICAN RECORDS: 9 (500yd, 1650yd, 400m, 1500m, 1 mile freestyle; 1 relay); 1970 Sullivan Award; World Professional Marathon Champion: 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979.

John Kinsella was a big, big swimmer at 6 ft. 3 in. and 200 lbs. He won the Sullivan Award as the USA's #1 amateur athlete of the year in 1970, halfway between his two Olympics. He was the dominant high school middle distance swimmer, swimming for Don Watson in Hinsdale, Illinois, and the dominant college middle distance swimmer for Doc Counsilman's Indiana University. He also dominated and set records lasting 12 years in the U.S. National AAU. Afterwards, in his professional career, Kinsella was unbeatable, being declared the World's Professional Champion on a point system including all sanctioned races from 1975 through 1979. During this time he won races across Lake Ontario, the English Channel, and all around the world circuit, usually in world record time. He retired in 1979 with no more swimming worlds to conquer having used his professional earnings to put himself through Harvard Business School. As a milestone achievement, Kinsella was the first swimmer in history to break 16 minutes for the 1500 Meter swim in 1970.

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