During an illustrious 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 [only Schollander (10), Australia’s Ian Thorpe (6), and Japan’s Tsuyoshi Yamanaka (5) have broken the event’s record more times]. Bruce laid claim to the 200-meter Freestyle World Record from 1975 to 1979. His 1976 Olympic Gold Medal victory would outlast seven Olympic Quadrennials (32 years) before being equaled in 2008 by another American, twenty-two time Olympic medalist, Michael Phelps.
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.
A 1975 graduate of Tustin California’s Foothill High School, Bruce is the third of four highly successful aquatic brothers, often referred to as “Orange County California’s First Family of Swimming.” Older brother, Steve, a two-time swimming Olympian (1972 Olympic Bronze Medallist and 1976 Olympic Team Captain), and Bruce are among a rare group of siblings, in any sport, to make the same Olympic Team. Unfortunately the heartbreaking IOC decision to remove the 200-meter Individual Medley from the 1976 Olympics robbed Bruce and Steve of the unique opportunity to compete against each other in an Olympic swimming event. However, Bruce and Steve do share the distinction as the only known brothers ever to have held and broken one another’s World Records consecutively. Bruce broke Steve’s 200-meter Individual Medley World Record in August of 1975, while competing against Steve in the U.S. Sr. National Championships in Kansas City, KS. In that same meet, Bruce and Steve, swimming for Long Beach Swim Club, shared the equally unique accomplishment, (along with teammates Tim Shaw and Rex Favaro), as the last club team to break a swimming relay World Record (4 x 200-meter freestyle relay). Earlier that same summer at the World Championship Team Trials in Long Beach, CA, Bruce also accomplished the rare feat of breaking the same World Record twice in the same day (June 18, 1975) in the 200-meter freestyle. Bruce was twice named World Swimmer of the Year, once in 1975 and again in 1976. In 1974 and 1975, he won the Robert J. H. Kiphuth Award as the high point winner at the U.S. National A.A.U. Outdoor Championships. He was inducted into the Orange County Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1987.
In May of 2001, Bruce was inducted into the University of Southern California Athletic Hall of Fame; the fourth male swimmer in the school’s 125-year history awarded the honor. Bruce also participated in carrying the Olympic flame as a participant of the 1984, 1996 and 2004 Olympic Torch Relays in the Los Angeles area.
It is also interesting to note that in the midst of these extraordinary athletic accomplishments, and throughout much of his prime swimming career, Bruce became noted for achieving athletic success in spite of waging a quiet and very personal battle against the crippling arthritic disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis, an affliction from which he has suffered since the age of 16. A licensed California Real Estate Broker for the past 30 years, Bruce has marketed and sold over $1 Billion worth of multi-family and commercial real estate. He is a Senior Vice President and Broker Associate with Berkadia Apartment Real Estate Advisors, one of the nation’s largest fully-integrated multifamily brokerage and advisory practices. Additionally, Bruce is an assistant senior coach for SoCal Aquatics in Tustin, CA, a swim club for which he swam in his youth. Bruce is a founding and current board member of Swim with Mike, a non-profit organization, which provides financial scholarships to physically challenged athletes enabling them to attend college. Swim with Mike was established in 1981 following a tragic motorcycle accident which left his close friend and USC swim teammate, Mike Nyeholt, paralyzed from the chest down. Bruce is also an active supporter of the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the YMCA of Orange, the International Swimming Hall of Fame, Villa Park High School Aquatics, and San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church. Bruce is a 1979 graduate from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communications, where he received his B.A. degree in Journalism. He resides in Villa Park, California along with his wife Sharon, and their four children, Kyle, Troy, Brooke and Quinn. His son, Kyle, is a member of the USC Class of 2016 and played water polo for the university.