In light of the recent accomplishments by Missy Franklin at the London Olympics (5 medals! 4 of them gold!) I thought I’d post some photos I shot and set aside a few months ago of Olympic backstroking legend Adolf Kiefer. The oldest living Olympian gold medalist, in his prime he competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and was famous for being the first man to break the 1-minute mark in the 100m backstroke and winning all but one of his 2,000 + career races (Wikipedia says 2, he says 1). I had the opportunity to meet him and his wife this April at their home in northern Illinois after helping the directors of the upcoming documentary film Touch the Wall – which profiles Franklin and her former teammate Kara Lynn Joyce – shoot some footage at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. They wanted to interview Kiefer to learn about his storied career (there was even a comic book starring him) and also gain his insights into swimming’s then up-and-coming, now fully arrived, swimming star, who shares his specialization in the backstroke. So, following the races we drove north and spent an amazing two days interviewing him and rummaging through years of memorabilia, some of which deserves to be in a museum. At 94 years old, Kiefer has lead a life that many of us couldn’t fit into 10 lifetimes. In brief, after competing in the ’36 Olympics, where he met Hitler and befriended Jesse Owens, he had a short-lived flirtation with Hollywood before moving to serve in the Navy where he taught 13,000 navy swim instructors, saving countless military lives to drowning. He eventually went into business for himself, building Kiefer & Associates, a company that invented the first nylon swimsuit, modern lane dividers that keep swimmers’ wakes from entering adjacent lanes and that still to this day supplies much of the equipment you see at elite swim meets, from starting blocks to swim caps. Later in his life he moved into philanthropy and continued his mission, born in his Navy years, of teaching swimming safety to thousands of youth in the Chicago area. Despite being on in years and confined to a wheelchair, he and his wife both take daily swims in their indoor lap pool, put in time with the business, which they have sold to another owner, and get out to the major swimming competitions, including the Olympic Trials that were held last month in Omaha. Most of our time spent with them was in wide-eyed amazement as he recounted tale after tale of his life and as we perused his countless medals, photographs and pieces of memorabilia. A personal favorite was a copy of the official Berlin Olympics book, which contains hundreds of photos, many of them glued in prints, of Berlin during the ’36 games. Right there in the middle of it, along with chilling photos of streets lined with swastika-adorned flags and iconic images of the late, great Owens, is Adolf, arms raised, clutching a bouquet of flowers. And now he’s here seated next to me. After taking it all in and processing, I left feeling inspired to do more. I think if we could all accomplish a fraction of what he’s accomplished with our time here we’d all lead very fulfilling lives.