During an illustrious swimming career spanning seventeen years, Bruce Furniss broke ten World and nineteen American Records, and won 11 AAU and 6 NCAA Titles. As a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic 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 28 of 35 (80%) possible total medals, Bruce won two Gold Medals in the 200- meter Freestyle (one of only three Americans ever win this Olympic event; Mark Spitz in 1972 and Michael Phelps in 2008 being the other two) and the 4 x 200-meter Freestyle Relay, setting World Records in each event. In the 200-meter Freestyle, Bruce led a U.S.A. 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. Bruce’s relay leg of 1:49.23 was the first time a swimmer ever broke the magical 1:50 barrier.
Bruce also garnered two Gold and two Silver Medals in World Championship competitions in 1975 (Cali, Columbia) & 1978 (West Berlin, FRG). However, the highlight of his aquatic accomplishments came in April of 2000 when Bruce was selected to “U.S. 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 twentieth century. In January of 2004, Bruce was one of six former collegiate athletes in the nation recognized as recipients of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award. This award is given annually to six individuals in recognition of their 25 years of post- graduate career achievements, contributions to professional organizations, and charitable and civic activities within their community.
As a seven year-old in 1964, Bruce was inspired by the four Gold Medal performance of American swimmer Don Schollander, who broke the 200-meter Freestyle World Record an astonishing ten times during his career and to this day is deemed the event’s greatest performer. A mere eleven years later, Bruce became the twelfth of only 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
Notably, Bruce’s dream of winning a third, and, quite possibly, a fourth Olympic Gold Medal was thwarted when the International Olympic Committee inexplicably removed what was arguably Bruce’s best event, the 200-meter Individual Medley, and the 4 x 100-meter Freestyle Relay (an event the United States had never lost) from the 1976 Olympic Games. As the reigning 200-meter Individual Medley World Record holder from 1975 through 1977 (the twelfth of eighteen Americans to ever hold the record), Bruce unquestionably was deemed the favorite for the event’s 1976 Olympic Gold Medal. Bruce was also America’s third fastest 100-meter Freestyler in 1975, and was a member of the World Champion and World Record- holding quartet in the 4 x 100-meter Freestyle Relay, an event the U.S. was favored to win in 1976 had the race been swum. Ironically both events were permanently reinstated into the Olympic program in 1984, eight years later.