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Bill Burgess

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 0
Bronze 1
Total 1
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameThomas William "Bill"•Burgess
Used nameBill•Burgess
Born15 June 1872 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England (GBR)
Died5 July 1950 in Levallois-Perret, Hauts-de-Seine (FRA)
Measurements185 cm / 95 kg
AffiliationsLibellule de Paris, Paris (FRA)
NOC France
Nationality Great Britain


Bill Burgess was born in Lyndhurst Place, Rotherham, as the son of Alfred Burgess, a blacksmith, and Camilla Peat, a cook. In 1882 his father took up an appointment as a tire-maker to the Earl of Shrewsbury. Bill was later sent to Paris by the Earl to set up a branch of the wheel and tire business, which was near Port d’Asnieres. Bill Burgess settled in Paris, living there for the remainder of his life and marrying a French woman, and he would eventually be interned briefly by the Germans during World War II. Burgess competed in the swimming events held during the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, which are considered as the Olympic swimming competitions. Although he was a British citizen throughout his life, at the 1900 Olympics he swam for the French club, Libellule de Paris.

Burgess’s main claim to fame as a swimmer, however, came in 1911 when, after 13 failed attempts, he became the second man to swim the English Channel, after Matthew Webb in August 1875, finishing in 22 hours, 35 minutes. It would not be until 1923 that a third successful crossing would be made, by Henry Sullivan, and in 1926, Burgess, by then a swim coach, would train American Trudy Ederle in her successful attempt to become the first woman to swim the Channel. Burgess received a gold cup for his Channel crossing, which was exhibited for many years at the Great Smith Street Baths in London. A bronze bust of Burgess now stands at the Sheffield Road pool, with the nose rubbed smooth from generations of British students rubbing it for luck prior to going into the baths.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal Nationality As
1900 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) FRA GBR Bill Burgess
1,000 metres Freestyle, Men (Olympic) AC r2/2
4,000 metres Freestyle, Men (Olympic) 4
200 metres Backstroke, Men (Olympic) 5
200 metres Obstacle Course, Men (Olympic) DNS
Water Polo (Aquatics) FRA GBR Bill Burgess
Water Polo, Men (Olympic) Libellule de Paris =3 Bronze

Special Notes