Bachrach, considered one of the greatest swimming coaches in history, was the head coach of the men's and women's United States Olympic swim teams in 1924 and 1928. His swimmers won 13 gold medals in 1924 and 10 gold medals in 1928. One of the medalists Bachrach personally developed was Johnny Weissmuller, who later gained Hollywood fame as Tarzan.
Starting out as a swim instructor at the Chicago Central YMCA, Bachrach moved to the Illinois Athletic Club and coached swimming and water polo from 1912-1954. At both venues he took an avid interest in promoting high school swimming meets and developing high school talent. When he moved to the IAC, Bill's reputation grew as he coached some of the top American swimmers. In 1920, he found a young swimmer named Johnny Weissmuller and developed him into a world champion who won four gold medals at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. His swimmers at the IAC won a total of 120 National AAU Championships. In 1914 alone, his swimmers and divers won every Men's National AAU Championship event and his water polo teams won the national championship for four consecutive years, from 1914-1917.
For all the athletic bodies Bachrach developed to perfection, the coach himself resembled President Taft, weighing well over 300-pounds, with a beer belly that made him look like a German butcher and an ever-present cigar. Although a competitive swimmer in the 1890s, Bill was never seen in a pool while coaching at the IAC; it was humorously rumored that he hated water. Called the "beloved tyrant," he knew how to get the most out of his swimmers, both physically and mentally. Following the 1928 Olympics, Bachrach took Weissmuller to Japan to compete. After learning that the Japanese were planning to increase their chances by using very cold water, Bachrach had Weissmuller sit in a tub filled with ice water until he was accustomed to the temperature, and Johnny won every event at the competition. In 1966, Bachrach was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 15, 1879 - d. July 1959
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000, (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999)