Helene Madison was one of the first female American swimming stars.
Growing up in Seattle, her home was one block away from Green Lake and she could often be found swimming there in the summer. She broke the Washington state record in the 100-yard freestyle at age 15, then found success at the U.S. national championships and set 23 freestyle world records over the next three years at various distances.
Queen Helene, as she would soon become known, made her biggest splash at the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Games.
Her first race was the 100-meter freestyle, where she won the gold medal, setting an Olympic record just two-tenths of a second off her own world record.
Four days later, Madison and her American teammates shattered the previous 4×100-meter freestyle relay world record by nearly 10 seconds to claim gold.
The next day, Madison set a new world record and edged teammate Lenore Kight by one-tenth of a second to win gold in the 400-meter freestyle.
That was the end of Madison’s swimming career.
Following The Olympics, she appeared in the films The Human Fish and The Warrior’s Husband, ending her amateur career. Madison also had a stint as a swimming coach; one of her students, Nancy Ramey, won a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly in the Melbourne 1956 Olympic Games.
Madison passed away in 1970. She was 57.