Illinois Swimming Legacy Shows Up at World Championships

Illinois Swimming Legacy Shows Up at World Championships
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

It has been about a century since Chicago’s Johnny Weissmuller won a total of five Olympic gold medals – three at the 1924 Games in Paris, then two at the Amsterdam Games in 1928 – after he began his swimming career in the waters of Lake Michigan.

His athletic exploits helped catapult Weissmuller – who was born in current-day Romania and brought to America as a baby – to become the most famous ever big screen Tarzan. He was also Jungle Jim during a Hollywood career that stretched from the 1930s through the ‘50s, way before legal, regulated Illinois online sports betting existed.

A generation later another standout from Illinois, John Kinsella of Oak Park, won a silver medal at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968, then struck gold at the Munich Games in 1972.

More Recent Top Illinois Swimmers

More recently, Ryan Held of Springfield, Illinois, won gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and won again at the 2022 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest (interestingly, just about closing a geographic circle with Weissmuller).

Those are just some of the swimming stars through the years from the Land of Lincoln.

With the 20th World Aquatics Championships scheduled for July 14-30 in Fukuoka, Japan, – your home for the best Illinois sportsbook promos – to discover which states produced the most medal-winning competitors at the event.

We used’s results of both men’s and women’s events for all 19 previous times the World Championships were held since 1973 (they are not held annually). We found the 181 unique U.S.-born swimmers who have won gold, silver or bronze medals at the event, then used their biographies to find the states that have produced the best swimmers from the United States.

States With Most Medals at World Swimming Championships

Rank, State No. Of U.S. Medalists % Of U.S. Medalists
1. California 46 25.4%
2. New York 15 8.3%
3. Illinois 13 7.2%
4. Florida 9 5.0%
T5. Ohio 8 4.4%
T5. Pennsylvania 8 4.4%
T7. New Jersey 7 3.9%
T7. Maryland 7 3.9%
T7. Washington 7 3.9%

Illinois Wins Bronze Medal Among Swimming States

What the research showed is that Illinois ranks No. 3 among all states for producing medal winners at the World Aquatics Championships. Illinois has had 13 medal winners, which makes up 7.2% of American medalists.

Mainly because of sheer size of population as well as a legacy of world-class swimming programs, California is the runaway leader. American’s most populous state has produced 46 medalists at Worlds, or 25.4% of American medalists. The second-leading state is New York with 15 medalists, or 8.3% of American medal winners.

After No. 3 Illinois, the states with the most medalists are Florida, (9 medalists, or 5% of the total); Ohio and Pennsylvania (8 each, 4.4%), then New Jersey, Maryland and Washington (7 each, 3.9%).

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Bill Ordine

Bill Ordine covers state gambling issues for He was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years.

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