When swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, future Tarzan, cheated on his nationality

When swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, future Tarzan, cheated on his nationality
When swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, future Tarzan, cheated on his nationality

IHe is not yet the king of the jungle, but in this year 1924, he is undoubtedly the king of the Games. In the swimming events “Johnny” Weissmuller won four medals for the United States. Gold in 100 meters, 400 meters and in the 4 × 200 meters relay; and a bronze medal in water polo. The public is seduced by this breathtaking colossus of 1.90m, the first to go under the minute for the 100m and who swims the front crawl with his head above water.

The end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire

But beneath the triumph and sporting ease, the worry of a secret, which bears witness to the upheavals of History. Born Janos Peter Weissmuller in 1904 in Freidorf, a district of present-day Timisoara (Romania), into a family of Swabians from Banat, Johnny became stateless during the dismantling of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Of the entire Weissmuller family who emigrated to the United States, only his younger brother, born in Pennsylvania, has American citizenship.

Impossible for the athlete to participate in the Olympic Games without valid identity papers. With the complicity of his mother, Elizabeth, he will therefore exchange his identity with that of his brother, Petrus or “Pete”.

In his memoirs, Tarzan, my father, Johnny Weissmuller Junior recounts how a baptismal certificate was even strangely altered, with the first name “John” inserted with different ink and writing just after “Petrus”. Relatives and friends will keep the truth to themselves and Uncle Pete will take for all […] Read more

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