Martha Norelius

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameMartha Maria (Märta-)•Norelius (-McAllister, -Wright, -Brown)
Used nameMartha•Norelius
Born22 January 1909 in Stockholm, Stockholm (SWE)
Died25 September 1955 in St. Louis, Missouri (USA)
AffiliationsWomen's Swimming Association
NOC United States
Medals OG
Gold 3
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 3


Martha Norelius was America’s first great female swimmer. She was originally coached by her father, Charles Norelius, who swam for Sweden at the 1906 Olympics. She was the top U.S swimmer from 1924-1929 with her fame resting primarily on her Olympic accomplishments. In 1924 at Paris, she won the 400 metre freestyle event, and in 1928 she defended that championship, winning the final with a world record of 5:42.8. Through 2016, she is the only woman to have defended the 400 metre event at the Olympics. At the 1928 Olympics, Norelius won her third gold medal when she swam on the 4 x 100 metre freestyle relay team. Norelius won 11 individual Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles between 1925 and 1929, and between 1925 and 1928 set 19 world records and 30 American records.

In 1929 Norelius was suspended by the AAU for giving an exhibition in the same pool as some professionals. She therefore decided to turn professional herself and won the $10,000 Wrigley Marathon in Toronto. While there she met Joe Wright, one of Canada’s greatest rowers. Wright had won an Olympic silver medal for Canada in the 1928 double sculls, and also played professional football with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. Norelius and Wright were subsequently married on 15 March 1930, although they later divorced.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1924 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) USA Martha Norelius
400 metres Freestyle, Women (Olympic) 1 Gold
1928 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) USA Martha Norelius
400 metres Freestyle, Women (Olympic) 1 Gold
4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay, Women (Olympic) United States 1 Gold

Olympic family relations

Special Notes


Date of birth is not certain. 20 January 1908 is seen, 21 January 1911 appears on her death certificate. The current date is from a document written by Norelius herself.