On the eastern coast of Florida, some 40 kilometers north
of Miami, lies Fort Lauderdale, with 170,000 citizens, which includes members
of the Croatian community, who managed to find room there to found their own
club. In 1965, the International
Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) was opened here, and several Croatian athletes
were inducted into it.
Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don
Grgas, Fort Lauderdale.
The Hall of Fame is dedicated to the
promotion of water sports and immortalizing the contributions of those with
achievements in swimming, water-polo, high diving, and swimming in open-water.
Most of the Croatians in the Hall of Fame are men, all of them water-polo players, with but one swimmer, Veljko Rogošić, along with two female swimmers.
Helen Crljenkovich was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1921 to
Croatian parents. Her mother was Anka Tomin from Petrijevci, and his father
Adam from Baničevci. When Helena was presented
her award for swimming, her mother moved with her to California. She enrolled in school there, and went on to study at Berkley University. She was a
well-known high diver. She played in several Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies alongside Esther Williams, a well-known actress and swimmer. Helen
Crljenkovich, married Morgan, chose to never Americanize her last name, as she
was proud of her Croatian heritage. She was supposed to take part in the 1940
Olympics, but they were postponed due to the war. She
later developed a carcinoma and passed away in 1955.
Helen Crljenkovich (1921 – 1955)
In 1940, famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957)
made the Pan American
Unity, a large mural made up of ten panels.
The mural is located in the City College of San Francisco. Among the numerous characters that he painted onto the
mural, including Rivera’s wife Frida Kahlo, is the figure of Helen
Crljenkovich, in the middle of a graceful swan dive.
Diego Rivera, Pan American Unity
Details from the mural featuring Helen
Crljenkovich on the left, and Frida Kahlo on the right.
Đurđica Bjedov was born in Split, in 1947, and left
her mark on history as the only Croatian swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.
She won it at the Games in Ciudad de México in 1968.
Alongside the gold metal for the 100 meter breast-stoke, she also won silver in
200 meter equivalent. She was named sportsperson of
the year, and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1987. She continued her
swimming career, this time as a coach in Switzerland, where she lives.
Đurđica Bjedov holding a
speech in Split, on the 35th anniversary of the Mediterranean games. The picture on the
right is of her and her students.
Paulo Radmilović (1886 – 1968) was born in Cardiff,
Wales, to an Irish mother and a father from Makarska,
who was born in Dubrovnik. He was a water-polo player, and a gold medalist at
the 1908 Olympics in London, the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. He also won a gold
medal for swimming in London. He was inducted into the Hall of
Fame in 1967.
Ratko Rudić is a Croatian water-polo coach born in
1948, in Belgrade, as well as a former water-polo player. Between his career as
a player and a coach, he holds a total of 64 trophies, which includes 19 club
titles and 45 national medals, 18 of which are gold. He won a total of 21 medals at European and World Championships,
10 of which are gold. He participated in eleven Olympic Games between his careers of playing and coaching,
which is the absolute Croatian record. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in
Ratko Rudić (photo courtesy of Split’s Sports Museum)
Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don Grgas
from Fort Lauderdale.
Perica Bukić was born in Šibenik, in 1966. He was the bearer of 40 medals, and the highest
decorated water-polo player of all time. His medals
include two Olympic gold medals, the first from Los Angeles in 1984, and the
second from Seoul in
1988. He was a two-time world champion and four-time
European club champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
Perica Bukić (photo courtesy of
Split’s Sports Museum)
Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don
Grgas, Fort Lauderdale
Among its members, the Hall of Fame also
includes Croatian water-polo players Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić and
Zdravko Ježić, as well as Split’s Ivo Trumbić (2015) and Radovan
Miškov (2014, in the veterans category), the latter of whom was preceded by
Milivoj Bebić is a Croatian water-polo player born in
Split, in 1959. FINA declared him the best water-polo player in the world in
1982, 1984, and 1986, and he was famous for the unprecedented ease with which
he scored goals. Bebić held two records; he
scored 28 goals at a Yugoslavia – Guatamala game, which is a world record for goals scored
in a single game, and over the course of six years playing with his team, he
scored 602 goals across 222 games. He was the first player in the history of water polo who signed a million dollar contract
when he left Split’s
POŠK in order to join Volturno. He won a silver Olympic medal in Moscow in 1980, and a gold medal
at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.
Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don Grga,