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 - breaking the 20-day old record held by American Jim Montgomery - winner of the event at the recent Montreal Olympic Games - by 0.55 seconds. Jonty's record was to stand for 5 years. He also set the first recognised WR time of 23,86 seconds for the 50m freestyle at that event, which was his split in the 100m event. In 2017 Jonty is inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame
Click on the image to see Jonty's 100 m world record swim
1975 - Jonty at Alabama with Mike Curington and Jack Babashoff
Jonty with his dad coach Doug Skinner and fellow East London Springbok swimmer Greg Carswell
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 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 scholarship to swim at the university of Alabama, Jonty left for the USA after winning the 100m freestyle at the 1974 Bloemfontein
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.
In 1976, he weighed 185 pounds and stood 6'5" and had a good chance of taking the gold medal in the 100 metre 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 metre 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 Honor 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 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.
Jonty swam with coach Bill Palmer of the Central Jersey Aquatic club