On the eastern coast of Florida, some 40 kilometers north of Miami, lies Fort Lauderdale, with 170,000 citizens, which includes members of the Croatian community, who managed to find room there to found their own club.  In 1965, the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) was opened here, and several Croatian athletes were inducted into it.


Ulaz 1               Ulaz 2


Dvorana 1               Dvorana 2 


Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don Grgas, Fort Lauderdale.


The Hall of Fame is dedicated to the promotion of water sports and immortalizing the contributions of those with achievements in swimming, water-polo, high diving, and swimming in open-water. Most of the Croatians in the Hall of Fame are men, all of them water-polo players, with but one swimmer, Veljko Rogošić, along with two female swimmers.

Helen Crljenkovich was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1921 to Croatian parents. Her mother was Anka Tomin from Petrijevci, and his father Adam from Baničevci. When Helena was presented her award for swimming, her mother moved with her to California. She enrolled in school there, and went on to study at Berkley University. She was a well-known high diver. She played in several Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movies alongside Esther Williams, a well-known actress and swimmer. Helen Crljenkovich, married Morgan, chose to never Americanize her last name, as she was proud of her Croatian heritage. She was supposed to take part in the 1940 Olympics, but they were postponed due to the war. She later developed a carcinoma and passed away in 1955.

Helen C

Helen Crljenkovich (1921 – 1955)


In 1940, famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera (1886 - 1957) made the Pan American Unity, a large mural made up of ten panels. The mural is located in the City College of San Francisco. Among the numerous characters that he painted onto the mural, including Rivera’s wife Frida Kahlo, is the figure of Helen Crljenkovich, in the middle of a graceful swan dive.

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Diego Rivera, Pan American Unity

Helen 1                     Frida

Details from the mural featuring Helen Crljenkovich on the left, and Frida Kahlo on the right.

Đurđica Bjedov was born in Split, in 1947, and left her mark on history as the only Croatian swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal. She won it at the Games in Ciudad de México in 1968. Alongside the gold metal for the 100 meter breast-stoke, she also won silver in 200 meter equivalent. She was named sportsperson of the year, and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1987. She continued her swimming career, this time as a coach in Switzerland, where she lives.


godisnjica MISa                       Đ Bjedov

Đurđica Bjedov holding a speech in Split, on the 35th anniversary of the Mediterranean games. The picture on the right is of her and her students.


Paulo Radmilović (1886 – 1968) was born in Cardiff, Wales, to an Irish mother and a father from Makarska, who was born in Dubrovnik. He was a water-polo player, and a gold medalist at the 1908 Olympics in London, the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, and the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. He also won a gold medal for swimming in London. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.


Radmilovic 2                                            Radmilovic 1

Ratko Rudić is a Croatian water-polo coach born in 1948, in Belgrade, as well as a former water-polo player. Between his career as a player and a coach, he holds a total of 64 trophies, which includes 19 club titles and 45 national medals, 18 of which are gold. He won a total of 21 medals at European and World Championships, 10 of which are gold. He participated in eleven Olympic Games between his careers of playing and coaching, which is the absolute Croatian record. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007.


Rudić 1                                 Rudic 2

Ratko Rudić (photo courtesy of Split’s Sports Museum)



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Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don Grgas from Fort Lauderdale.


Perica Bukić was born in Šibenik, in 1966. He was the bearer of 40 medals, and the highest decorated water-polo player of all time. His medals include two Olympic gold medals, the first from Los Angeles in 1984, and the second from Seoul in 1988. He was a two-time world champion and four-time European club champion. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.


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Perica Bukić (photo courtesy of Split’s Sports Museum)


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Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don Grgas, Fort Lauderdale


Among its members, the Hall of Fame also includes Croatian water-polo players Zdravko Ćiro Kovačić and Zdravko Ježić, as well as Split’s Ivo Trumbić (2015) and Radovan Miškov (2014, in the veterans category), the latter of whom was preceded by Milivoj Bebić.

Milivoj Bebić is a Croatian water-polo player born in Split, in 1959. FINA declared him the best water-polo player in the world in 1982, 1984, and 1986, and he was famous for the unprecedented ease with which he scored goals. Bebić held two records; he scored 28 goals at a Yugoslavia – Guatamala game, which is a world record for goals scored in a single game, and over the course of six years playing with his team, he scored 602 goals across 222 games. He was the first player in the history of water polo who signed a million dollar contract when he left Split’s POŠK in order to join Volturno. He won a silver Olympic medal in Moscow in 1980, and a gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

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M Bebic

Photos courtesy of Dolores and Don Grga, Fort Lauderdale