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Jed Graef

Sport: Swimming

Born: May 1, 1942

Town: Verona

Jedward Richard Graef was born May 1, 1942 in Montclair and grew up in Verona. A strong and enthusiastic swimmer whose love of the water began at his grandparents house on Lake Mohawk in Sparta—and at a pond in Wayne a few miles from his home—the boy known as Jed went on to be a literal one-man swim team when he enrolled at Verona High School. Jed was a year-round swimmer at that point, training indoors during the winter at pools as close as the YMCA in Montclair and as far away as Brooklyn. As he grew to his eventual height of 6’6”, Jed became particularly fast in the backstroke.

A superb student, Jed was accepted at Princeton University, where he studied psychology and captained Bob Clotworthy's swim team as a senior in 1963–64. After graduating in 1964, Jed set his sights on the Olympics, which were being held in Tokyo in October. Two other Princeton Tigers, basketball player Bill Bradley, cyclist John Allis, fencer Frank Anger and rower Sy Cromwell, also traveled to Tokyo. Jed made the US swim team in the 200 meters backstroke, which replaced the 100 meters race.

The gold medal was up for grabs, as the reigning world record holder and 1962 Swimmer of the Year, Tom Stock, was ill during qualifying and didn’t make the squad. Jed won his two qualifying heats, and then outswam teammates Gary Dilley and Bob Bennett on his way to a new world mark of 2:10.3. He became the first Princeton swimmer to win Olympic gold.

Jed competed just once more after the Olympics, in an event in Europe. By then, he had enrolled in the doctorate program at the University of Michigan. He went on to become an influential sports psychologist and later opened a Zen center in Vermont with his wife. He was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame in 1988.

 

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