Bruce Furniss

Bruce MacFarlane Furniss (born May 27, 1957) is an American former competition swimmer, Olympic gold medalist, and former world record-holder in four events. At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, he won the 200-meter freestyle and was a member of the winning U.S. team in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, both in world record time.[2]

Bruce Furniss
Bruce (left) and Steve Furniss in 1976
Personal information
Full nameBruce MacFarlane Furniss
National teamUnited States
Born (1957-05-27) May 27, 1957
Fresno, California, U.S.
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight161 lb (73 kg)
StrokesFreestyle, individual medley
ClubLong Beach Swim Club[1]
College teamUniversity of Southern California

Swimming career

Furniss broke ten world and nineteen American records, and won eleven Amateur Athletic Union and six NCAA titles.

1976 Olympics

Furniss was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic men's swimming team, a team regarded by most sports historians as the most dominating Olympic sports team ever assembled, winning 12 of 13 (92%) possible gold medals and 27 of 35 (77%) possible total medals. Furniss won Olympic gold in the 200-meter freestyle, (one of three Americans to ever win this Olympic event; Mark Spitz in 1972 and Michael Phelps in 2008 being the other two), and the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, setting world records in each event. In the 200-meter freestyle he led an American sweep finishing ahead of fellow Americans John Naber (silver) and Jim Montgomery (bronze). He teamed up with Naber, Montgomery and Mike Bruner on the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

World championships

Furniss also garnered two gold and two silver medals in the 1975 World Aquatics Championships in Cali, Colombia and 1978 World Aquatics Championships in West Berlin.

World records

As a 7-year-old in 1964, Furniss was inspired by the four gold medal performance of American swimmer Don Schollander, who broke the 200-meter freestyle world record ten times during his career. Eleven years later, Furniss became the twelfth of fourteen Americans in history to break the 200-meter freestyle world record. During his career he broke the 200-meter freestyle world record four different times. Furniss laid claim to the 200-meter freestyle world record from 1975 to 1979.

Sibling rivalry

Furniss is the third of four successful aquatic brothers, often referred to as "Orange County California's First Family of Swimming." Older brother Steve Furniss, a two-time swimming Olympian (1972 Olympic bronze medalist and 1976 Olympic team captain), and Bruce are among a rare group of siblings, in any sport, to make the same Olympic team. The decision by the International Olympic Committee to remove the 200-meter individual medley from the 1976 Summer Olympics robbed Bruce and Steve of the unique opportunity to compete against each other in an Olympic swimming event. However, Bruce and Steve share the distinction as the only known brothers ever to have held and broken one another's world records consecutively. Bruce broke Steve's 200-meter individual medley world record in August 1975, while competing in the U.S. National Championships. In that same meet, Bruce and Steve, swimming for Long Beach Swim Club, shared the equally unique accomplishment, (along with teammates Tim Shaw and Rex Favaro), as the last club team to break a swimming relay world record (4×200-meter freestyle relay). Earlier that same summer at the 1975 World Swimming Championships team trials, Furniss also accomplished the rare feat of breaking the same world record twice in the same day (June 18, 1975) in the 200-meter freestyle.

Olympic schedule changes

Notably, Furniss's dream of winning a third, and, quite possibly, a fourth Olympic Gold Medal was thwarted when the International Olympic Committee removed the 200-meter individual medley and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay (an event the United States had won in all three previous Olympics and both World Championships) from the 1976 Summer Olympics. As the reigning 200-meter individual medley world record-holder from 1975 through 1977, Furniss was the apparent favorite for the event's 1976 Olympic gold medal. Furniss was also United States' third fastest in the 100-meter freestyle in 1975, and was a member of the world champion and world record-holding quartet in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay, an event the Americans were favored to win in 1976 had the race been swum. Ironically both events were permanently reinstated into the Olympic program eight years later.

Awards and recognition

Furniss was twice named World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine, once in 1975, and again in 1976. In 1974 and 1975, he was the high point winner at the U.S. National Outdoor Championships. He was inducted into the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1987,[3] and the University of Southern California Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. Furniss also participated in carrying the Olympic flame as a participant of the 1984, 1996 and 2004 Olympic torch relays in the Los Angeles area.

In April 2000, Furniss was selected to "USA Swimming's Swim Team of the 20th Century", an honor bestowed on only 26 U.S. male swimmers deemed to be the best of the best in the 20th century. In January 2004, Furniss received the NCAA's Silver Anniversary Award. The award is presented annually to six former collegiate athletes in recognition of their 25 years of post-graduate career achievements, contributions to professional organizations, and charitable and civic activities within their community. In February 2016, Furniss was selected as one of 32 Athletes named to the Pac-12 Conference's All-Century Men's Swimming and Diving Team, recognizing him as one of the Conference's best swimmers in the last 100 years.

Personal life

Furniss is a 1975 graduate of Tustin, California's Foothill High School, and he also attended the University of Southern California. He graduated in 1979 from USC's Annenberg School for Communication, where he received his bachelor's degree in journalism. Furniss later worked in marketing and public relations, and wrote for Swimming World.[1]

Throughout much of his prime swimming career, Furniss became noted for achieving athletic success in spite of waging a quiet and very personal battle against the crippling arthritic disease, ankylosing spondylitis.[4]

See also


  1. Evans, Hilary; Gjerde, Arild; Heijmans, Jeroen; Mallon, Bill. "Bruce Furniss". Olympics at Sports Reference LLC.
  2. 2001 Inductees For USC Athletic Hall of Fame Announced
  3. International Swimming Hall of Fame, Honorees, Bruce Furniss. Retrieved March 17, 2015.
  4. Jean, Dorthy (December 1999). "You Gotta Play Hurt". Orange Coast Magazine. Emmis Communications. 25 (12): 20. ISSN 0279-0483.
Preceded by
David Wilkie
Steve Furniss
Men's 200-meter individual medley
world record-holder (long course)

August 23, 1975 – August 4, 1977
Succeeded by
Graham Smith
Preceded by
Tim Shaw
Men's 200-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

June 18, 1975 – April 7, 1979
Succeeded by
Sergey Koplyakov

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