Bill Smith

From Openwaterpedia
William Melvin Smith, Jr., 2-time Olympic champion
Bill Smith in a Maui irrigation ditch with coach Soichi Sakamoto

William Melvin Smith, Jr. (16 May 1924 – 8 February 2013) (aka Bill Smith) is one of Hawaii's greatest swimmers. Smith was one of the inaugural inductees in the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame in 2002. His career began when he placed second in a 1-mile swim at the American national championships in California at the age of 16. After returning home to Hawaii, he moved to Maui to train with the legendary Soichi Sakamoto where the training regimen included swimming against the currents in Maui's irrigation ditches. Smith attended Ohio State University for 1 year before joining the Navy. After World War II ended, he returned to Ohio State to complete his degree and return to swimming. He won a total of 36 individual and relay titles in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Big Ten and NCAA championships. He set American records at 18 different distances and was generally considered one of the world's outstanding swimmer from 1941 to 1949 when he set 7 world records and 12 national records. In 1942, he won 3 freestyle events at the national championships, setting a world record in one and American records in the other two events. At one time, Smith held all of the world records in freestyle swimming events between the 200-meter and 1,000-meter distances.

1948 Olympics

One of his greatest accomplishments was winning 2 gold medals at the 1948 London Olympic Games in the 400m freestyle and the 800m freestyle relay.

Ocean Career

He later became captain of the lifeguards at Waikiki Beach and the Water Safety Director of Department of Parks and Recreation for the City and County of Honolulu.

Coaching Career

Smith coached the K-Bay Swim Club at the Kaneohe Marine Air Station in the early 1970s. He then went on to coach the Kamehameha Swim Club for 20 years. One of his top swimmers was Kaili Chun.


Smith is inducted as an Honor Swimmer in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1966 and in the Hawaii Swimming Hall of Fame and Museum in 2002.

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