Duke Kahanamoku Dies of Heart Attack

Updated: November 3, 2005, 3:50 PM ET
By Larry Schwartz | Special to ESPN.com

January 22, 1968

Duke Kahanamoku, a five-time Olympic medalist in swimming who became Hawaii's best-known citizen, dies of a heart attack in Honolulu. He was 77.

Duke popularized the American crawl stroke and was the first outstanding sprinter to swim with his head and shoulders high above the water.

He won the 100-meter freestyle in the 1912 and 1920 Olympics and finished second to Johnny Weissmuller in 1924 at the age of 33. As a member of the 4x200-meter U.S. freestyle relay team, he won silver in 1912 and gold in 1920. In 1932, he was an alternate on the U.S. water polo team.

Duke also played a major role in introducing the sport of surfing around the world. In 1925, in a tragedy in which 17 people died when a yacht capsized off Newport Beach, Calif., Duke used his surfboard to save the lives of eight people. After appearing in minor roles in 28 Hollywood films, he served as the sheriff of the city and county of Honolulu for more than 20 years.

His ashes will be deposited on the sea off Waikiki in the traditional beachboy manner, a final rite the Duke himself requested.