He was the darling of the American newspapers in the 1920's. They showered him with epithets like Human Hydroplane, Prince of the Waves and Aquatic Wonder. Born in Romania to a German couple who emigrated to Chicago four years later, Johnny Weissmuller won every freestyle swimming race he entered right from the age of 17.
Weissmuller was 6 ft 3 in tall and swam much higher in the water than his competitors and had a better breathing technique. In 1922, he became the first to swim 100 metres in less than a minute. In the Paris Olympics of 1924, Weissmuller won the gold medal in the 100 m and 400 m freestyle events and anchored the American team to a gold in the 4x200 m relay. He set world records in all three. In the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, Weissmuller won two golds, in the 100 m freestyle and the 4x200 m relay. During a swimming career spanning 8 years, Weissmuller set 51 individual world records, 94 American records and was a member of 13 American record-setting relay teams!
In 1932, he bagged the role of Tarzan the Apeman in the movie series based on Edgar Rice-Burroughs' novel. He also played the role of Jungle Jim, another pulp hero. He was a hero in real life too, once. In 1927, he saved the lives of 11 people when an excursion boat capsized on Lake Michigan.