According to the archives in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, an annual 2-mile swim began in 1898 that moved in various locations around Lake Michigan. After the establishment of the Illinois Athletic Club in 1904, the club sponsored it for over 50 years.
Former winners included 3-time Olympic gold medalist Norman Ross (1920 and 1921), 6-time Olympic medalist Johnny Weissmuller (1926), Olympic gold medalist Adolph Kiefer (1937) and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee Don Watson (1950).
Ross, in particular, was prepared for the lake swim given his Olympic “open water swimming” experience in the 1920 Olympic Games.
At the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, he won the 400-meter freestyle and the 1500-meter freestyle as well as anchored the winning 4×200 relay where he was teammates with Duke Kahanamoku. The Olympic swimming competition took place in an open canal and without lane markings.
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