Jonty Skinner

On the 14th August 1976, swimming at the AAU nationals in Philadelphia, Jonty Skinner from East London in South African set a new world record for the 100m freestyle. His time of 49,44 beat the 20-day old record of 49,99, set by American Jim Montgomery in winning the event at the recent Montreal Olympic Games. Jonty's record was to stand for 5 years.

He also set the first recognized WR time of 23,86 seconds for the 50m freestyle at that event, which was his split in the 100m event.

In 2017 Jonty Skinner became the third swimmer from South Africa to be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

14th August 1976 - AAU Nationals - Philadelphia

2017 American Swimming Coaches Association Hall Of Fame Inductee

An interview with Jonty Skinner by Thys Lombard, in September 2020.

John Alexander Skinner was born in Mowbray, Cape Town on 15th February 1954 and matriculated from Selborne College in East London. His father was well-known local coach Doug Skinner.
 
His early swimming efforts were concentrated on surf lifesaving, where he was soon to become a dominant figure. After winning his Springbok colours on the 1971 tour to Australia and New Zealand, he made an almost complete clean sweep of titles at the 1972 SA Surf lifesaving Championships.
 
That year also showed the first sign of things to come when he finished second in the 100m freestyle at the 1972 Port Elizabeth nationals. On a Springbok swimming tour to Germany, he beat a world-class field in a time of 52,99, which placed him 5th in the world rankings. 
 
At the 1973 SA nationals in Bulawayo, he won the 100-metre freestyle event and backed that up by winning the event again at the 1974 National Championships. He was awarded the title of South Africa Athlete of the Year and was also awarded Springbok Colours in Swimming and Life Saving.
 
Accepting a scholarship to swim at the University of Alabama, Jonty left for the USA after winning the 100m freestyle at the 1974 Bloemfontein nationals. At the 1975 Division I NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships he won the 100 yards freestyle in an American record time of 43,92 (the record is 43,15 in 2014) and was voted Alabama's most valuable swimmer in 1975, 1976, and 1977. He was also voted as Alabama's Athlete of the Year.
 
During the university summer breaks, Jonty swam with coach Bill Palmer at the Central Jersey Aquatic Club in Asbury Park, which club he was representing at the AAU nationals in 1976. 
 
In 1976, he weighed 185 pounds and stood 6'5", and had a good chance of taking the gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Unfortunately, South Africans were banned from the Olympics - hence making Skinner ineligible to compete.
 
However, after the completion of the Olympics, at the 1976 United States, Summer National Swimming Championships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and after just qualifying for the final, Skinner broke Jim Montgomery's 20-day old world record in the 100 meter freestyle by 0.55 seconds beating home the Olympic champion and Joe Bottom who won silver in Montreal. His record stood until 3 April 1981 when Rowdy Gaines swam the distance in 49.36 seconds in Texas. In addition to his world record, he set three American records in the 100 yards freestyle.
 
In 1985, he was recognized by the swimming world when he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honour Swimmer.
 
After his swimming career ended, Jonty followed in his father's footsteps and became a swim coach and consultant to various countries - including being a US Olympic coach.
 
From 1981-1988, Skinner served as head coach at the San Jose Aquatic club, where he won five junior national championship team titles and one national championship team title.
 
From 1994-2000 Skinner served as USA Swimming’s Resident Team Coach, which involved coaching some of the nation’s top swimmers at the elite national and international level.
 
Prior to his arrival at USA Swimming, Skinner served as head coach of the men’s and women’s swimming teams at the University of Alabama. Under Skinner’s guidance, both the men’s and women’s swimming programs finished in the top 10 nationally in 1994. That same year Skinner won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Women’s Coach of the Year award.

My son Jonty Skinner

By Doug Skinner

Lean, loose-limbed, 1,95m tall Jonty Skinner flew home from the USA in early December. A gentle giant with a slow Southern drawl and complete indifference to the swimming fame that surrounds him.

A slow-moving figure in faded denims and a tatty T-shirts at the pool belies the tremendous athletic ability that galvanizes into action when Jonty is in the water.

His crawl arm stroke has very little dependence on the legs and comprises a 90% power mass ratio arm effort.

He reaches out with the full extension of the arm and shoulder at 30-degree angle. He digs the hand down to push up the elbow to engage the shoulder. This forms the lever and he almost lifts himself over the water so the exit of the hand occurs at the same place it enters.

Jonty broke the world record in most unfavourable conditions at 4:30pm with the air temperature at 90 degrees centigrade so I guess this has to make him the greatest.

His latest academic results are 2 A’s and 4 B’s + 1 C which was pretty good. He is at present the Captain of the Alabama University swim team and his immediate object is to recapture the 100 yards indoor title and improve on his 100 yards record of 43,92.

Jonty Skinner with coach Don Gambril.