David Larson

David Erwin Larson (born June 25, 1959) is an American former competition swimmer who is an Olympic gold medalist and former world record-holder. Larson is a Georgia native who became an All-American college swimmer for the University of Florida. He was known for his success as a member of American relay teams in international competition at the Pan American Games and the Olympics – and for setting two world records in the 4×200-meter relay event on the same day at the 1984 Olympics.

David Larson
Personal information
Full nameDavid Erwin Larson
National teamUnited States
Born (1959-06-25) June 25, 1959
Jesup, Georgia
Height6 ft 2.5 in (1.90 m)
Weight174 lb (79 kg)
College teamUniversity of Florida

Early years

Larson was born in the small town of Jesup, Georgia in 1959.[1][2] He started swimming as an age-group competitor in 1963.[3] He attended the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, where he swam for the Bolles high school swim team.[3][4] He graduated from Bolles in 1977.[4]

College swimming career

Larson accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he swam for the Florida Gators swimming and diving team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) competition under coach Randy Reese from 1978 to 1981.[5] Larson won two NCAA championships at Florida in the 800-yard freestyle relay (1979, 1981), setting American and NCAA records in the process.[5] He finished second in the 200-yard freestyle to Rowdy Gaines of Auburn in 1981, but then out-swam Gaines on the final leg of the 800-yard freestyle relay to claim the NCAA championship in the event. Larson earned twenty-one All-American honors and was national record holder in the 400-yard freestyle relay.[5]

Larson graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 1987,[6] and was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great."[7]

International swimming career

Larson was first selected for the U.S. national swim team for the 1979 Pan American Games held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In what would become a regular match-up, Larson earned a silver medal in the men's 200-meter freestyle for his second-place finish (1:52.24) behind American teammate Rowdy Gaines (1:51.22).[8] Two days later, Larson and Gaines combined with fellow Americans Brian Goodell and Kris Kirchner to win a Pan American Games gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay (7:31.28).[9]

He qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1980, as a member of the U.S. team in the men's 4×200-meter freestyle relay, but was unable to compete because of the United States-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow.[3] After completing his college career in 1981, Larson was tired of swimming and quit, only to return to competition a year later because he missed the focus.[10] Larson continued his training with the program that coach Randy Reese had created for post-college swimmers in Gainesville, Florida.[3]

At the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela, he again won a gold medal as a member of the winning U.S. team in the men's 200-meter freestyle relay, together with Richard Saeger, Bruce Hayes and Rowdy Gaines (7:23.63).[11]

Larson represented the United States at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.[2] In the preliminary heats of the men's 4×200-meter freestyle relay, he and U.S. teammates Geoff Gaberino, Hayes and Saeger set a new world record of 7:18.87.[12][13] But the new record was short-lived.[13] Later that same afternoon, Larson won the gold medal in the event final of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay, together with his American teammates Mike Heath, Jeff Float and Hayes, by defeating the Michael Gross-anchored West German team by four one-hundredths (0.04) of a second, and setting yet another new world record of 7:15.69 in the process.[14][15][16] The American media dubbed the four swimmers the "Gross Busters," a play on the title of the popular 1984 movie Ghostbusters.[17]

In the aftermath of the 1984 Olympics, Larson retired from competitive swimming at the age of 25.[18]

Life after swimming

After the post-Olympic national celebrations, Larson was offered an opportunity to work in sports marketing in New York City. His early professional career involved dealings with agents, creating event sponsorships, and negotiating athlete contracts. He spent the next decade working in sports marketing, then in television. He worked with NBC on its Olympic broadcasts, including the 2005 Winter Games.[3]

Larson and his wife Kitty, a Miami lawyer, have a son.[3]

World records

Men's 4×200-meter medley relay

Time Date Event Location
7:18.87 July 30, 1984 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California[12][13]
7:15.69 July 30, 1984 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California[14][15][16]

See also


  1. databaseOlympics.com, Athletes, David Larson Archived February 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  2. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Athletes, David Larson. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  3. "Gator Great David Larson's 1984 Olympic Triumph Revisited," GatorZone.com (August 8, 2013). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  4. The Bolles School, Athletics, Bolles Olympic Medalists Archived July 7, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  5. Florida Swimming & Diving 2014–15 Media Supplement Archived February 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 78, 79, 81, 84, 87, 101 (2014). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  6. University of Florida Alumni Directory, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2000).
  7. F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  8. "18-carat performance: U.S. wins 10 gold medals," St. Petersburg Times, p. 1C (July 3, 1979). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  9. United Press International, "Vasallo Sets Swim Record At Pan Am," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 1-C (July 7, 1979). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  10. "Scouting; Happy Return For Swimmer," The New York Times (August 4, 1984). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  11. Associated Press, "Pan Am Games," Santa Cruz Sentinel, p. C-4 (August 19, 2015). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  12. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay Round One. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  13. Associated Press, "Add 3 / U.S. gold total at 9," The Indiana Gazette, p. 14 (July 31, 1984). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  14. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay Final. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  15. Knight News Service, "U.S. Swimmers Set World Relay Mark," The Toledo Blade, p. 18 (July 31, 1984). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  16. Frank Litsky, "U.S. swimmers win two more golds," The New York Times (July 31, 1984). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  17. Craig Neff, "The U.S. Is Back . . . And How!," Sports Illustrated (August 13, 1984). Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  18. Associated Press, "Former Gator swimmer struck by Olympic patriotism," The Gainesville Sun, p. 3E (August 26, 1984). Retrieved July 11, 2015.


  • Caraccioli, Jerry, & Tom Caraccioli, Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, New Chapter Press, Washington, D.C. (2009). ISBN 978-0-942257-54-0.
  • De George, Matthew, Pooling Talent: Swimming's Greatest Teams, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland (2014). ISBN 978-1-4422-3701-8.
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