Adolf Kiefer, Oldest Surviving Olympic Gold Medalist, Dies At 98

Hollie Thomas

One of America's oldest surviving Olympic medalists, Adolf Kiefer, passed away Friday at his home in Illinois. The Veteran Olympian rose to prominence in the 100-meter backstroke event at the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.

Mr. Kiefer had recently suffered from pneumonia and had spent some time in the hospital. The Olympic champion had been confined to a wheelchair later in life as he suffered from neuropathy, a condition that occurs due to damaged peripheral nerves. The disease affected the swimmer's hands and legs. Nonetheless, he swam each day and was able to walk unhindered when immersed chest deep in water. paid a lengthy tribute to their founder, describing the champion as "a man larger than life."

"It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that our Founder, Adolph Kiefer, passed away on May 5, 2017, at the age of 98. A man larger than life, Adolph had such a huge passion and joy for swimming. He has touched many in this industry and paved the way for future athletes with his historic swimming career."

Kiefer was first noticed at 16-years-old during a meet at the Illinois High School Championships, where he broke the one-minute mark in the 100-meters backstroke event. He was the first in history to do so. Within a year, Adolf Kiefer had joined the USA National Team, and at a meet in Germany broke the 100-meter backstroke world record by almost four seconds. In the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Kiefer broke the world record no fewer that three times, winning the Gold Olympic Medal for the U.S.A.

The U.S Olympic Team paid tribute to Kiefer this morning.

"Kiefer was immediately alarmed by the inadequacy of the Navy's Swim Training program. Shockingly, Kiefer soon realized that several high-ranking Officers didn't even know how to swim, and the Navy was actually losing more lives to drowning than bullets. Consequently, Adolph designed and implemented a comprehensive swim training program for 2 million recruits on 6 different bases."

Joyce and Adolf are survived by their four children.

[Featured Image/ Jamie Squires/Getty Images Sports]