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Fact of the Day

Oct 7, 1998

"The Monarch Butterfly"
Not only was Joe Verdeur of Philadelhia the "King of the Flyers" and 1948 Olympic champion, but also a Kirk Douglas look-alike, right down to the cleft chin. And when Joe wasn't winning butterfly races, he was a mean hand with the banjo-ukelele which he strummed between races to keep himself relaxed.

Verdeur was particularly renowned for his extreme flexibility. To this end, he did unusual routines with a towel held behind his shoulders until it seemed his arms would pop from their sockets. With his stroke in full flight, his loose-limbed arm recovery was so high that his arms looked like a letter 'V' or an eagle about to grab its prey.

Joe Verdeur's greatest day came on August 7th 1948 in the Wembley Swim Stadium at the London Olympics when he beat Keith Carter, captain of Purdue University to win the 200 metres fly in a new world record 2:39.3 - .7 seconds under his own previous mark for the distance. Carter clocked 2:40.2 with fellow American, Bob Sohl, third in 2:43.9, a clean sweep for the United States.