Craig Beardsley

Craig Beardsley
Craig Beardsley
Personal information
Full name Craig Russell Beardsley
Nationality  United States
Born 1961
New York City, New York
Sport Swimming
Stroke(s) Butterfly
College team University of Florida

Craig Russell Beardsley (born 1961) is a former American college and international swimmer. Although he was the then-current world record-holder in the 200-meter butterfly event and qualified as a member of the ill-fated 1980 U.S. Olympic Team, Beardsley could not compete in the Olympics because of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympic Games.


Early years

Craig Beardsley was born in New York City, New York in 1961, the son of an American father, Russell Beardsley, and a Chinese American immigrant mother, Jeanne Loh.[1] He attended the United Nations International School in the city, where he was a stand-out cello player, and graduated from Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan after his family moved to Harrington Park, New Jersey.[1][2] Prior to attending college, Beardsley never had an opportunity to swim for a school team because none of his schools sponsored an organized swim team.[1]

Swimming career

At that time, I don't want to say that I supported the boycott, but I wasn't against it, either. I tried to think there was some good in it. We were doing the right thing. I supported everything at that time . . . [however], I began to realize that it was just another political movement. I became strongly opinionated about trying to separate sports and politics. It will never happen again. Sports, like music, is one of those great things that bind people together.

Craig Beardsley, discussing the U.S. Boycott of the
1980 Moscow Olympics in 2009.[3]

Beardsley won the gold medal in his signature event, the 200-meter butterfly, at the 1979 Pan American Games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After high school, he received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he swam for coach Randy Reese's Florida Gators swimming and diving team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition from 1979 to 1982. Beardsley qualified for the star-crossed U.S. Olympic team in 1980, but could not participate when, at the behest of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Olympic Committee voted to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979. Like many of the best American athletes of 1980, he was denied the opportunity to participate on the largest stage in international sports. At the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials held the month before the Olympics, Beardsley set a new world record of 1:58.21 in the 200-meter butterfly—a time that was over a second faster than Soviet swimmer Sergey Fesenko's gold medal time in the 1980 Olympic finals.[4]

After the United States–led boycott of the Moscow Olympics, Beardsley continued to train and participate in competitive swimming. He held both the American and world records for the 200-meter butterfly from 1980 to 1983. Swimming World Magazine named him its American Male Swimmer of the Year in 1981. Beardsley was a two-time NCAA champion in the 200-meter butterfly and received eight All-American honors while swimming for the Gators.[5] In 1983, he again won the gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly at the Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela.

Beardsley failed to qualify for the U.S Olympic team in 1984, by placing third by 0.36 of a second in the U.S. Olympic Trials,[6] and he retired from competitive swimming afterward. Taking advantage of the hard feelings created by the American-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries had pushed for and received Olympic rules changes limiting each country to only two participants in each swimming event.[6] The United States, as the dominant swimming power, was hurt the most.[6]

Life after competition swimming

Beardsley is a veteran celebrity swimmer for Swim Across America (SAA), a charitable organization that raises funds for cancer research.[7] He has been an active participant in SAA events since 1987.[7]

He graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in management in 1983, and was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great." Beardsley became a Wall Street broker, working for Prudential Securities in New York City.[8] In 1992, he married Ann-Elizabeth McKay Hensel, a former member of the U.S. national figure skating team.[8] He has two children, Carter and Caroline,[7] and lives in Chatham, New Jersey.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Craig Neff, "A Little Water Music, Please: The University of Florida's Craig Beardsley, who bows a mean cello, swims the 200 fly faster than anyone in the world," Sports Illustrated (March 29, 1982). Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  2. ^ Litsky, Frank. "World Records Set In 200-Meter Butterfly", The New York Times, July 31, 1980. Accessed October 26, 2011. "Craig Beardsley of Harrington Park, N.J., the 19-year-old son of an American father and Chinese mother, broke the world record this afternoon in the men's 200-meter butterfly swim."
  3. ^ a b, "New Yorker and Boycotted 1980 Olympian Craig Beardsley to Sign Copies of New Book Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games at Sports Museum of America," (press release) (August 3, 2008). Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  4. ^ Joe Marshall, "All That Glitter Was Not Gold," Sports Illustrated (August 16, 1980). Retrieved July 26, 2011.
  5. ^ Gator Men's Swimming & Diving 2008–2009 Media Guide, Gator History & Records, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 88, 93–94 (2008). Retrieved April 17, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Craig Neff, "They've Stroked Their Way To L.A.: Three world and five American records tumbled as 43 swimmers gained Olympic berths at the U.S. trials," Sports Illustrated (July 9, 1984). Retrieved April 15, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c Swim Across America, Olympians, Craig Beardsley. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Weddings; Ms. Hensel, Craig Beardsley," The New York Times (June 14, 1992). Retrieved April 14, 2010.


  • Caraccioli, Jerry, & Tom Caraccioli, Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, New Chapter Press, Washington, D.C. (2009). ISBN 9780942257540.
Preceded by
United States Mike Bruner
Men's 200 metre butterfly
world record holder (long course)

July 30, 1980 – August 26, 1983
Succeeded by
West Germany Michael Gross

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