1948 Olympic Champion, World Record Backstroker Dies At 71
Sep 21, 1999
Allen Stack, a Yale graduate, winner of the 1948 Olympic gold in the men's 100 backstroke, died in his home in Honolulu on September 12.
He was suffering from bone cancer for the past year and missed the 100th anniversary reunion of swimming at Yale last year.
At 6 feet 5 inches and 215 pounds Stack was the first prominent backstroker to swim with a bent arm. His success with this technique eventually became the norm.
In addition to his 1948 Olympic win, he won at the first Pan American Games in 1951 in Buenos Aires. He won 10 American national titles (7 individual and 3 medley relays). He also competed at the 1952 Olympics, finishing fourth.
Olympics Games 1948 1st 100 backstroke 1:06.4 4th 100 backstroke 1:07.6 Pan American Games 1st 100 backstroke 1:08.0 1st 3x100 medley relay He established world records: (In 25 yard pools, as was customary in his time) 100 metres backstroke 1:04.0 New Haven, Jun.23,1948 1:03.6 New Haven, Feb.4,1949 150 yards backstroke 1:29.9 New Haven, May 5,1949 400 metres backstroke 5:03.9 New Haven, Feb.14,1948 American titles: Outdoor (50 m pool) 100 metres backstroke 1947 1:07.8 1948 1:07.7 1949 1:07.1 1950 1:08.2 Indoor (25 yards pool) 150 yards backstroke 1948 1:32.3 1949 1:30.7 1950 1:32.9 3x100 yards medley relay 1949 2:52.4 1950 2:51.6
Stack was born in Jan 23, 1928, in New Haven, graduating from Yale in 1949, spent 1951 to 1954 in the Navy and graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1956. He moved to Honolulu and practiced law there until illness forced him to retire.
Veteran swimming writer Frank Litsky wrote in the New York Times Sep. 19 edition how a friend and former Yale swimmer Everett MacLeman of Guilford, Connecticut, recalled:
"Seconds before the starting gun in the 1948 final, he was in the water and pulled up his trunks. The cord broke and the trunks started to slip off. He hollered to the starter, who let him get out of the water and into new trunks that stayed up, and he became Yale's first-ever Olympic gold medal swimmer."
In 1952, Stack tried to retain his Olympic title, but just before the event he fell off a motor scooter. Swimming with a bandaged hand, he finished fourth. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979.
Stack had written to his wife that he had hurt his hand on a turn, "I thought it was a swimming turn, not a motor-scooter turn," his wife remembered.
He is survived by his wife Elizabeth Loy Marks of Honolulu, a son, and two daughters.