South African swimming legend Karen Muir passed away on Monday at the age of 60, after losing a battle with breast cancer.
The 1980 inductee into the International Swimming Hall of Fame was part of a lost generation of South African athletes; she never competed at the Olympic Games during South Africa’s apartheid-induced banishment from the Olympics in the 60?s and 70?s.
Quietly, though, she became the youngest swimmer in history to break a World Record (and believed to be the youngest person in any sport to do the same in an official sense). When she was just 12 years, 10 months, and 25 days old she swam a 1:08.7 in the 100 meter backstroke at the ASA National Junior Championships in the U.K. Muir, in total, broke 15 World Records in her career – all before retiring at just the age of 16.
Think of Muir as South Africa’s answer to Mary T. Meagher: a young swimmer who was as good as anybody in the world before she was old enough to have any right to be so. Muir also won three U.S. Open National titles in her career.