Michael Francis Troy is an American hero whose story must be told.
Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on October 3, 1940, he grew up poor and started swimming at age eight, taking lessons in the city’s park district pools. At 12, Troy was invited to train with the famed Indianapolis Athletic Club team and, unable to afford the dues, a family friend sponsored his membership. The Indianapolis Athletic Club attracted a remarkable group of teenagers at that time, including Frank McKinney, Bill Barton, Bill Cass and Alan Sommers, all of whom would go on to become Olympians. As high schoolers, all five won U.S. Nationals titles, while training under highly-regarded coach Jim Clark. McKinney pioneered the modern bent-arm backstroke, won 14 AAU Championships and earned a bronze medal in the 100 meter backstroke as a 16-year-old at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. In 1958, Mike Troy accepted a scholarship to Indiana University, where he joined McKinney, Barton, Cass and Sommers to swim for legendary coach James “Doc” Counsilman, who had arrived in Bloomington the prior year. The summer before his freshman year, Troy won the AAU national championship in the 100 meter butterfly. The following summer, he exploded onto the national scene at the U.S. Nationals, taking first in the 200 meter butterfly in 2:19.0—a world record—and winning gold as part of the 4x 200 meter freestyle relay team.
Freshman were not eligible for varsity athletics in those days, so Troy began his IU career as a sophomore in 1959-60. In his first year of eligibility, he twice broke the American record in the 200 butterfly. On February 20, 1960, he helped the Hoosiers end the University of Michigan’s streak of 33 straight dual meet victories by winning the 100 and 200 yard butterfly events in Ann Arbor en route to being named Most Outstanding Performer of the meet. Troy won Big Ten titles in both the 100 and 200 yard distances to qualify for the NCAA Championships, where he won both events and became the first athlete to swim the 200 yard fly in under two minutes, going 1:57.4 [short course]. The 6’1, 175 pound Hoosier continued his dominance by winning the 100 and 200 meter butterfly events at both AAU Championships—indoor and outdoor—while resetting his own world record in the 200 at the outdoor meet. In August, Troy competed in the Olympic Trials at Brennan Pools in Detroit, finishing first while lowering his world mark to 2:13.2. Four swimmers from the Indianapolis Athletic Club—and Indiana University—qualified for the 1960 Olympic team and 19-year-old Mike Troy was one of them.
The Olympic Swimming Stadium in Rome, Italy played host to the eight events that comprised the men’s program in 1960. On September 1, Mike Troy swam the third leg of the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay in 2:02.9 while helping the U.S. team capture gold in a world-record time of 8:10.2. The 200 meter butterfly event, first added to the Olympic program in 1956, was contested for the second time four years later. Twenty-four hours after Mike Troy had won his first Olympic gold medal, he won his second, beating Australia’s Neville Hayes by three body lengths in a world record time of 2:12.8. Troy had broken the world record six times in the last 14 months while lowering the mark by over six seconds—or more than thirty feet. Indiana had been placed on probation by the NCAA for football infractions, making Hoosier swimmers ineligible for national finals competitions, but Troy helped IU to their first Big Ten swim title in 1961—the Hoosiers would win 20 straight conference championships under Counsilman—as Indiana displaced Yale as the dominant power in college swimming. Troy was elected team captain in his senior year, competing in the final meet of his career at the Big Ten Championships on March 2, 1962. On the same day that Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points to set the still-standing NBA record for most points in a single game, Mike Troy went 1:26.9 in the 100 yard butterfly to set an American, NCAA and Big Ten record in a meet in which one record was shattered in every event.
After graduating from IU in 1962, Mike Troy became a U.S. naval officer and Navy SEAL. He later served in Vietnam and was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. During his swimming career, Mike Troy won two Olympic gold medals, six AAU National Championships, three Pan Am Games gold medals and five Big Ten titles. He broke the world record in the butterfly six times. Troy graced the cover of Sports Illustrated on August 1, 1960, just weeks before competing in the Olympics. He opened the Gold Medal Swim School in Chandler, Arizona and in 2004 was named National Teacher of the Year. Mr. Troy has served on the U.S. Olympic Committee, as VP of the American Swimming Coaches Association and has sent four swimmers to the Olympics. Mike Troy is a charter member of the Indiana University Athletics Hall of Fame and was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in 1971.