Forgotten Swimming Champ, Don Schollander

This article was last updated by on

Don Schollander is an American athlete who was the first swimmer to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1946, he truly was the golden boy of sport.

Forty-four years ago, Don Schollander was the hero of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He was everywhere in the news with the picture of four Olympics gold medals draped around his neck. 

But as a kid, Don was a lousy swimmer; he was a pretty good athlete but couldn’t swim very well. However, by age 12, he improved so much that his family sent Don to California for better training opportunities.

The golden angel of sport, Don Schollander.
The golden angel of sport, Don Schollander. (Source: Pinterest)

Just at the age of 16, he was a multiple-time national champion and on a pace to become a legendary swimmer. He won numerous U.S. national titles and set several U.S. and world records during his career.

After retirement, Schollander provides an excellent profile of his early life and his Olympic victories in Duke Savage (1971), written by Duke Savage.

If you want to know what Don Schollander is doing now? Where is he? What was his career like, and about his awards and achievements? Read this article till the end.

Don Schollander: Quick Facts

But before we proceed with our article, let us glance at quick facts.

Full Name Donald Arthur Schollander
Common Name Don Schollander
Birth Date April 30, 1946
Birth Place Charlotte, North California, USA
Religion Christian
Nationality American
Ethnicity White
Father’s Name Wendell Leslie Schollander
Mother’s Name Martha Perry Schollander
Brother Wendell Leslie Jr.
High School
  • Santa Clara High School
  • Lake Oswego Senior High School
University Yale University
Swim Club
  • Aero Club, Portland
  • Santa Clara
Coach (Club) George Haines
Horoscope Taurus
Age 78 Years Old
Height 180 cm
Weight 79 kg
Build Athletic
Eye Colour Brown
Hair Colour Dark Brown
Profession Professional Swimmer
Strokes Freestyle
First Olympic Games Tokyo, 1964
Club Santa Clara Swim Team
Retirement 1968
Olympic Medals 5 Gold and 1 Silver
Olympic Games Two
Coach George Haines
Marital Status Married
Wife Cheryl Schollander
Children Jeb, Kyle, and Katie
Residence Lake Oswego, Oregon
Net Worth Unknown
Social Media None
Merch Autobiography Deep Water, Inside Swimming
Last Update July, 2024

Don Schollander: Early Life

Schollander, a native of Charlotte, North California, was the son of Wendell Leslie Schollander and Martha Perry Schollander.

Wendell was a former all-state high school football player and an insurance company executive. Martha was an outstanding swimmer who had been a swimming stunt double in several movies.

She was also seen in various Tarzan movies, substituting Jane, who starred Olympic gold medalist Johny Weissmuller.

His brother, Wendell Leslie Jr., was an all-state football player in high school who later switched to the wrestling team at the University of Pennsylvania.

Don moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon, a suburb of Portland, with his family when he was pretty young.

Don’s first choice was football since his father had been a standout tailback at North Dakota State University, and his brother had also excelled in football in high school.

But Don felt as if he was not as big as the other boys into football; thus, he chose swimming. He thought if he put all his energy into swimming, he might be more successful.

Don Schollander: Age, Height, and Weight

Don turned 78 years old this year. He celebrates his birthday on April 30. Thus, his zodiac sign is Tauras. 

Schollander stands 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) tall and weighs 79 kg (174lbs).

In his early days, Don was lean and had an athletic body.

College and Swimming 

As a child, Schollander learned the basics of swimming at Portland’s Aero Club. He set a national record in his age group for swimming the backstroke by ten.

When Don went to Oregon High School, his father suggested him again to try swimming. Don proved his brilliancy in swimming by competing against high school seniors when he was just a freshman.

Hall of Fame Swimmer, Don Schollander.
Hall of Fame Swimmer, Don Schollander.

During his first year in high school, Schollander competed at the Oregon state finals for two events and won both events. Then, in his senior year, Don beat all his opponents in every event.

Don’s impeccable talent was on display in his early teens as he guided Lake Oswego High School to the Oregon state champion as a freshman.

After seeing Don processing rapidly as a swimmer in the local high school, his parents decided to leave Oswego and move to Santa Clara, California, for more opportunities.

In Santa Clara, Schollander joined Santa Clara Swim Club, where George Haines coached him. There he turned into the most excellent swimmer ever of his time.

Alongside Swim Club, Schollander attended Santa Clara High School and graduated in June 1964.

If you are interested to learn about Kerri Walsh Jennings bio, click here>>

Don Schollander: Professional Career

1964 Olympic

When training Dan for the 1964 Olympic Trials, George Haines expressed confidence that he could win any freestyle event for which he is trained.

Although the swimmer was solid in the middle distances, George feared that it would be foolhardy to prepare Don for both the 100-meter sprint and the 1500-meter race at the same time.

Thus, he focused Schollander’s training on the 100-meter event, for which he felt Don had a perfect stroke. In addition, the coach felt confident Don’s good stroking would pay off in any upcoming challenges.

George’s strategy paid off at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Schollander brought four gold to the home.

Don Schollander in 1964 Tokyo Games:

Schollander won both the 100-meter freestyle, setting a new record and the 400-meter freestyle, establishing a new world record. 

In addition to his win in individual events, Don won gold for USA 100-meter relay teams and 200-meter freestyle races.

Yale University and 1968 Mexico Olympics

After Tokyo Olympics, Schollander got the scholarship and enrolled at Yale University. 

At Yale, Don became a member of fraternity brothers with future U.S. President George W. Bush and continued his swimming career.

In the Mexico City 1968 Games, he earned silver in the 200-meter freestyle, gold in the 100-meter freestyle relay, and 100-meter medley relay. He also won gold in the 200-meter freestyle relay.

Schollander in action during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics Game
Schollander in action during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics Game (Source: Swimming World)

He was 18 years old during Tokyo Olympics, and he knew he would have another chance. But in Mexico Games, he was 22 years old and thought he was done. This made Schollander more nervous at the 1968 Olympics, even though he had more experience.

Awards and Achievements

As the swimmer ever to win four medals in a single Olympics, Schollander was widely honored back in the USA.

After all of the gold landed to 18-year-old Don Schollander in 1964, he was on the cover of Life Magazine. Also, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) awarded him James E. Sullivan Memorial Award for 1964.

This award is awarded annually to the athlete who has shown great sportsmanship in the year by their outstanding performances despite being an amateur.

In 1965 Don was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer. He was also titled ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of The Year.

Schollander’s gold medals are currently on display to the public at a Bank of America branch located in downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Nicco Montano bio, click here>>

Forgotten Star 

Don Schollander gained much worldwide recognition and place in sports history from his time of greatness.

He seemed to be an idol as everyone’s idea of championship swimmer and was even tagged with the nickname “The Golden Angel.”

But Schollander didn’t make much money. After a brief period, most swimming athletes would retire, and swimming was not much exposed.

Eighteen-year-old Don Schollander with a gold medal in the middle for 1964's Olympic men freestyle.
Eighteen-year-old Don Schollander with a gold medal in the middle for 1964’s Olympic men freestyle

Like today during those times, male swimmer career would end past the age of 22, and female swimmer career past the age of 18.

Schollander’s greatness was quickly dismissed. But, unfortunately, his excellence was delivered before the period where endorsement deals were available to top athletes were also not yet familiar.

Life After Retirement

Don Schollander remained involved in swimming and the Olympics after his competitive days were over after the 1968 Mexico Games.

He became an advocate for athletes and pushed them for more athletic representations on Olympic laws. He was also the board of directors of the U.S. Olympic Committee for four years.

Schollander attended several Olympic venues worldwide for business purposes for the next four years. He was accompanied by legendary University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman.

Grown-up Don Schollander (Source: Twitter)

After graduating from Yale, he worked for a year in New York, then a year in San Francisco. After that, he was back home in Oregon and started his real estate business.

Don still occasionally swims with the local Master’s team but never competes. He still has fond memories from the past and considers the American flag at the closing ceremonies in 1964 and winning the first Olympic medal as his favorite memories.

Don Schollander: Wife and Children

Don lives with his wife Cheryl and children Jeb, Kyle, and Katie in New Oregon. His wife, Cheryl, is a long-retired nurse for disabled children and now is a homemaker.

Don’s eldest son Jeb who is 33, helps with the family real estate business. Another son Kyle who is 24 years old, goes to Western Oregon University.

Kyle plays defensive end for the football team in the University. The youngest daughter, 20 years old, is in high school and enjoys playing tennis.

Dan Schollander: Net Worth

The exact net worth Schollander has earned till now is unknown yet. But with success like Don’s in the current time, he would have been on the list of wealthiest athletes for sure. 

Since the era when he was at the top of the game was not better for swimmers to earn many fortunes, Don’s gold medals alone had so much value and worth.

After retiring from competitive swimming, Schollander wrote two books and ran his own real estate development company.

Thus, Schollander lives a quiet, peaceful, and comfortable life with his family in New Oregon.

Don Schollander: Social Media Presence

Don, who turned 78 this year, is currently enjoying quiet life away from any exposure and limelight.

Schollander is not active on any social media platforms. And it is suitable for him as he is spending quality time with his wife and children.

Click here to read about American star Lance Mountain>>

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Deep Water book of Don Schollander about?

In the book, Deep Water Schollander has retold about his swimming career. This book also shows the corrupt side of the AAU, now the USA Swimming Association.

He has shed light on the behind-the-scenes story of the NCAA, the AAU, and the IOC, as well as the political mess during the Olympic Games.

Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah
Sanjib Sah is an engineer and content writer passionate about sports and athletics. With a background in engineering and a love for all things active, Sanjib brings a unique perspective to the world of sports writing. Whether he is covering the latest trends in sports technology or sharing tips on improving your game, Sanjib's words are always rooted in a deep appreciation for players' hard work and dedication everywhere. In his free time, you can find him hitting the courts or hitting the trails, always looking for new ways to challenge himself and improve his skills.

Related articles


  1. Don Schollander still ranks as the Very Best Swimmer in the World for me.
    Forget all these newbies – Don is the Best!
    Deep Water was the book that inspired me to keep swimming! I held three league records for seven years, and gave my last performance at LaSalle College (the best and fastest pool I ever swam in) in Philadelphia – posting my best times ever.
    I thought of Don Schollander in every race.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share article

Latest News