Bill Mulliken

From Openwaterpedia
Bill Mulliken, Olympic Champion

William ("Bill") Mulliken (born August 27, 1939) is an attorney and Olympic champion. He competed at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, where he received a gold medal in 200 m breaststroke. He is also the inspiration and founder of the Big Shoulders 5K Swim, the most popular race in the Midwest U.S.A. The 2.5K and 5K race is touted as a Lake Michigan-size test of guts, determination and fortitude amidst the chilly, windswept waves.

International Swimming Hall of Fame

Mulliken was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1984. His induction information reads as follows:

The RECORD: 1960 Olympic gold (200m Breast). 1959 Pan Am Games: gold (200m Breast). 1 A.A.U. Nationals: (220yd Breast). 1 N.C.A.A. Championship: (200yd Breast). 5 American Records (200yd, 200m & 220yds Breast).

Sometimes it's not so much who you beat as when you beat them. That's the case for Bill Mulliken, the Chicago lawyer and Masters swimmer. Mulliken is credited by 196O U.S. Olympic coach Gus Stager with the surprise Olympic gold medal that inspired the U.S. team to beat the favored Australians. The USA had not won an Olympic Breaststroke since 1924, yet nobody should have been too surprised noting Mulliken's past record. While it was true that Mulliken only occasionally beat the Michigan and Indiana breaststrokers in U.S. Collegiate or AAU competition, he had, on occasion, beaten everybody at everything. As his coach Raymond Ray so proudly put it, "Bill has held, at one time or another, the National Collegiate 200yd (breaststroke) record, the National Indoor 220yd (breaststroke) record, the Pan-American 200m and the Olympic 200m breaststroke record." Ray might have added the U.S. Olympic trials, for without this one more unexpected win, Bill Mulliken would not have been in Rome to put Australia in his Mulliken stew. Welcome Bill Mulliken to the International Swimming Hall of Fame where winners are always remembered.


Big Shoulders started with an inspired individual who had an inspired idea. Founded in 1990 by Mulliken, Big Shoulders has grown to be one of the premier open water races in the world.

Mulliken saw the City of Chicago, known for its tough but endearing demeanor, rugged work ethic and soaring skyline, as an unconventional but ideal spot for an open water swimming race. Captured as the "City of Big Shoulders" by the poet Carl Sandburg, Chicago is blessed to reside at the foot of one of the fresh water marvels of the world, Lake Michigan. Combine a Bill Mulliken with such an ample resource, great things happen.

As Mulliken is fond of saying, "Big Shoulders is the world's most architecturally significant race" and is an annual race in the prestigious America's Top 50 Open Water Swims List. He gathered together the right allies and picked the ideal spot at the foot of the Hancock Tower starting on Ohio Street beach. Serving as a fundraiser for Chicago Masters and UIC Swim teams, Big Shoulders began as a roughwater 5K challenge of unparalled stature in the Midwest.

With the backing of the legendary Joe Pecoraro, Captain of the Chicago Parks District lifeguards, as well as the regard of Bill's business colleagues in the city, Big Shoulders launched with a handful of the heartiest and most adventurous open water swimmers in the area. A local celebration of the city skyline had begun, and the message was delivered: Lake Michigan is ready for all comers in the waters near Jardine Water Plant every September, the first Sunday after Labor day weekend.