Charles Daniels is an eight-time Olympic medalist in swimming (1904, St Louis; 1906, Athens; 1908, London), the father of the “American crawl,” and a 1981 NYAC Hall of Fame inductee.

Daniels was born on March 24th, 1885, in Carmel Valley, CA. He joined the New York Athletic Club in 1903 to be a part of its world-class swimming team. Daniels fit in well at the Club; not only was he an Olympian, but he was also a champion squash and bridge player.

At the 1904 Olympic Games in St Louis, the first Games held on American soil, Daniels won gold medals in the 220 yards freestyle and the 440 yards freestyle, with times of 2:44.2 and 6:16.2, respectively. He also won a silver medal in the 100 yards freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50 yards freestyle. Daniels was also part of the 4x50 yards freestyle relay team that won a gold medal; however, because the competition was between clubs rather than nations, some sources do not recognize these events as having been part of the Olympic program. Regardless, his prowess in the pool established Daniels as the preeminent swimmer at the 1904 Games. Hitherto, swimming was dominated by British athletes; Daniels ushered in an era of American dominance. 

Daniels’ success is due in large part to his revolutionary swimming technique. He was the creator of the “American crawl”, often referred to today as the front crawl or freestyle. Daniels adopted the idea from Australian swimmer Richmond Cavil, but he improved upon Cavill’s technique by introducing a six-kick beat, meaning that he would kick six times for every two arm strokes. The front crawl is today the fastest of the primary strokes; as such, it is universally referred to as “freestyle”, because it is ubiquitous in freestyle events.

Including the 4x50yd relay from 1904 and a victory at the 1906 Inter-Calated Games in Athens, Daniels accumulated eight Olympic medals in the course of his career.

1904, St Louis

1st220yd FS

1st, 440yd FS

1st, 4x50yd FS relay

2nd, 100yd FS

3rd, 50yd FS

1906, Athens

1st, 100m FS

1908, London

1st, 100m FS

3rd, 4x200m FS relay

Daniels was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1965, for his outstanding competitive record and his services to the sport.

He died on August 8th, 1973 at the age of 88.