We in Maryland know John Higgins as the Head Swimming Coach at the Naval Academy for 23 years (1950-1973). Many remember Navy’s upset of Yale in February 1961 breaking Yale’s string of 202 Dual Meet victories over 18 years. Those who attended National AAU Swimming Meets know him as a National Official for over 40 years. John Higgins to those who admire the innovators and champions of the sport know John Higgins as one of the great swimmers of his time and historically the first great breaststroke (Butterfly) swimmer of all time.
On February 22, 1936, John set a World Breaststroke Record using the Butterfly arm stroke with the frog kick in a time of 1:10.8 for 100 meters. In the l936 Olympic Trials he established a new American and World Record of 2:44.1 for the 200 meters, a record that stood for 12 years. His long career with the YMCA and Onleyville (RI) Boys Club, then Ohio State University and finally the US Navy left few to doubt his talents. He won 11 Nationals while also setting World and American Records in Individual Medley, Butterfly and Breaststroke. In the l936 Olympic in Berlin he placed fourth in the 200 Breaststroke. Overall, John Higgins competed at high levels for 21 years. He broke 10 world and 20 American Records. He is a member of the Rhode Island Hall of Fame, the Ohio State University Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame. He is a Past President of the College Swim Coaches Association and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.