Gunnar Larsson

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameCarl Gunnar•Larsson
Used nameGunnar•Larsson
Born12 May 1951 in Malmö (SWE)
Measurements186 cm / 86 kg
AffiliationsMalmö SS, Malmö (SWE)
NOC Sweden
Medals OG
Gold 2
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 2


Together with Arne Borg, Gunnar Larsson is considered as Sweden’s greatest all-time swimmer. Larsson first competed internationally at the 1968 Olympics, competing in three individual freestyle events and two freestyle relays, but his specialty was the individual medley. At the 1970 European Championships, he won three gold medals – the 400 freestyle and both IMs. His winning times in the 400 freestyle (4:02.6) and 200 IM (2:09.3) were also world records. For those achievements, Larsson was awarded the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal.

At the 1972 Olympics, American Gary Hall was considered as the favorite for individual medley golds. The 400 IM was contested first and in the final Hall led for the first 300 metres but was overtaken by Larsson and Tim McKee in the freestyle leg and they finished almost simultaneously, the electronic timing giving both the time of 4:31.98. However, the electronic timer could measure to the 1/1000ths of a second and when that was done, Larsson had the gold medal – 4:31.981 to 4:31.983. Thousandth-second timing was used again at the 1973 World Championships, but the controversy over the accuracy of such timing caused FINA to change their rules, so that in the future swimming times would only be measured to the hundredths of a second. Three days later Larsson won his second gold medal in the 200 IM, comfortably ahead of McKee with a world record time of 2:07.17. At the 1973 World Championships Larsson won gold in the 200 IM, his favorite event.

Larsson retired from sports after the 1973 Worlds and, after graduating from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in 1975, worked until 1985 as a swimming coach and physical education teacher. From 1985-98 he operated a McDonald’s restaurant in Eskilstuna and from 1998-2002 worked as a consultant for McDonald’s. From 2000-2005 Larsson was a board member of the Swedish Swimming Federation. For over 30 years, from 1974 until late 2000s, he served as an expert commentator with Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s national publicly funded radio. Larsson was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1979.

Personal Bests: 400 m freestyle – 4:02.6 (1970); 200 m individual medley – 2:07.17 (1972); 400 m individual medley – 4:31.98 (1972).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1968 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) SWE Gunnar Larsson
200 metres Freestyle, Men (Olympic) =25
400 metres Freestyle, Men (Olympic) 12
1,500 metres Freestyle, Men (Olympic) 13
4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay, Men (Olympic) Sweden 11
4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay, Men (Olympic) Sweden 8
1972 Summer Olympics Swimming (Aquatics) SWE Gunnar Larsson
400 metres Freestyle, Men (Olympic) 13
4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay, Men (Olympic) Sweden 4
200 metres Individual Medley, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
400 metres Individual Medley, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
4 × 100 metres Medley Relay, Men (Olympic) Sweden 14

Olympic family relations

Special Notes