Karen Muir (de Graad) Passes Away, at 60

Swimming’s Youngest World Record Setter Succumbs to Breast Cancer

Fort Lauderdale – Born in Kimberely, South Africa, on September 16, 1952, Karen Muir became the youngest youngest world record holder any time in any sport when she knocked seven-tenths of a second off Linda Ludgrove's 110 yd. backstroke world record in England, at the A.S.A. National Jr. Championships on the 10th of August, 1965. Karen's age was 12 years, 10 months, 25 days. Between 1965 and 1969 she was world queen of the backstroke and her 100 meter world record was not broken until 1973, yet ironically the 15-times world record setter was never in an Olympic final due to the Olympic boycott of her native South Africa. Muir retired from swimming in 1970 and went on to qualify as a medical doctor. She later practiced medicine across the African continent.

Known as the “Tepid Torpedo,” Dr. Muir was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) in 1980. She relocated to Vanderhoof, British Columbia, Canada in 2000, where she was a family physician. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, Karen passed away on April 1st.

“Karen held the world record for almost 8 years and retired when she graduated from high school,” said Bob Duenkel, ISHOF’s Executive Director. “Had she had the opportunity to compete internationally and continue her career she might have gone down as the greatest backstroker in history.”


The International Swimming Hall of Fame, Inc. (ISHOF), established in 1965, is a membership based, not-for-profit, educational organization located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. ISHOF’s museum is an informational resource that preserves the history of swimming, recognizes excellence and inspires everyone to adopt healthy lifestyles through participation in aquatic recreational and/or competitive sports. For more information visit http://www.ishof.org