Having never received formal training, or even competed at the distance before, Canadian swimmer George Hodgson shocked the Commonwealth by defeating world record-holder Sydney Battersby and winning the mile event at the 1911 Inter-Empire Championships, an athletic tournament held as part of the “Festival of Empire” in honor of the newly-crowned George V of the United Kingdom and considered a precursor to the British Empire Games. Undefeated at the Canadian National Championships from 1910 through 1912, he went on to compete as Canada’s only swimmer at the 1912 Summer Olympics, winning gold in both of the events in which he competed: the 400 and 1,500 metres freestyle. He set an Olympic record in the former and a world record in the latter, and then returned to his native Montreal to attend McGill University, where he swam and played water polo until his 1916 graduation. His world record would last until 1923, while his distinction as Canada’s only Olympic gold medalist in swimming would survive until 1984, a year after his death at the age of 89.
After leaving McGill, Hodgson joined the Royal Naval Air Service and served in World War I, earning the United Kingdom’s Air Force Cross. He was selected to represent Canada in his gold medal-winning events at the 1920 Summer Olympics, but he failed to leave the semi-finals in either competition. He spent the rest of his life in Montreal as an investment broker at his own firm. He is a member of the Canadian Amateur Sports (1949), International Swimming (1968), McGill Sports (1996), and Quebec Swimming Federation (1998) Halls of Fame.
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