Wales greatest Olympian – Paulo Radmilovic
Gary Baker on 26/03/2012
Just mention the name of Paulo Radmilovic to those who know their sport in Cardiff and he is instantly recognized.
For those outside the capital city or swimming circles, Paulo is less well known but is, in fact, an Olympic legend across the country.
The son of a Croatian father and Irish mother, who lived in Bute Street, Cardiff, he was, in his day, as famous as Sir Steve Redgrave was when completing his Olympic story in five successive Games.
In fact, not one person was able to achieve Paulo's feat of winning four gold medals until Sir Steve equalled and then beat it at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Radmilovic was, to put it mildly, a sporting phenomena.
He was just 15 when he played in the Welsh Water Polo team in 1901 and swam in the 1906 Interim Games in Athens where he was fourth in the 100m freestyle behind American Charles Daniels, who finished the race in one minute 13.4seconds.
But it was only the start of Paulo's Olympic journey which came of age in London in 1908 - 102 years before the return of the Games to Britain's capital this summer.
Paulo was part of the men's 4x200m freestyle team which won gold in 1908 where they came home in ten minutes 56.6secs ahead of the Hungarian team and one, including Daniels, from the USA.
He was also in three individual freestyle events in those Games.
Not just did he swim well on his own, but Paulo was a brilliant water polo player and doubled his golds in those London 1908 Games, which were centred around the old White City Stadium, with the British team who beat Belgium by nine goals to two in the final, with Sweden third.
Paulo scored twice in that final and was also part of the British Water Polo side which beat Sweden in the final, with Belgium third.
After the First World War, Paulo returned to action with the water polo squad and took another gold, this time when they beat Sweden in the final of the Antwerp Games of 1920.
He was 35 by then but his career was far from over as 'Raddy', as he was known, went onto play for Britain again in the 1924 Paris Games, where the water polo was won by home nation France, who beat Belgium for gold, and at Amsterdam in 1928 when Germany beat Hungary in the final and the swimming Blue Riband event - the 100m - was won by a certain American called Johnny Weissmuller!
Paulo's incredible Olympic achievements did not go un-noticed by swimming's global hierarchy. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1967 and the year after in Weston-Super-Mare where he was running a hotel.
And right to this day, the swimming community in Wales still remember the legend. In 2008 - a century on from his 1908 gold medal successes, a plaque was unveiled in his honour at the Cardiff International Pool.
Current Welsh stars like Jazz Carlin, David Davies and Jemma Lowe are likely to be going for gold themselves this summer but it would certainly be a magnificent achievement if any of those swimmers - or others alongside them - can match the legend of Paulo Radmilovic.
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