About Bruce MacFarlane Furniss
Bruce MacFarlane Furniss (born May 27, 1957) is an American former competition swimmer and Olympic gold medalist. At the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec, he won the 200-meter freestyle and was a member of the winning U.S. team in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, both in world record time.
He attended Foothill High School and the University of Southern California.
During an illustrious swimming career spanning seventeen years, Furniss broke ten world and nineteen American records, and won 11 AAU and six NCAA titles. He was 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. Furniss won Olympic Gold in the 200 meter Freestyle, (one of only three Americans to ever win this Olympic event; Mark Spitz in 1972 and Michael Phelps in 2008 being the other two), and the 4×200 meter Freestyle Relay, setting world records in each event. In the 200 meter Freestyle he 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.
Furniss also garnered two Gold and two Silver Medals in the 1975 World Aquatics Championships in Cali, Colombia and 1978 World Aquatics Championships in West Berlin, FRG. However, the highlight of his aquatic accomplishments came in April 2000 when Furniss was selected to "USA 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 2004, Furniss received the NCAA's The Silver Anniversary Award. The award is presented annually to only six former collegiate athletes in recognition of their 25 years of post-graduate career achievements, contributions to professional organizations, and charitable and civic activities within their community. Furniss is one of only eleven USC Trojans (second swimmer) ever to win the award, joining John Ferraro, Al Geiberger, Mike Garrett, Stan Smith, Lynn Swann, Pat Haden, John Naber, Debbie Landreth Brown, Paul McDonald, and William Stetson, M.D. in being so recognized.
As a seven year old in 1964, Furniss 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, Furniss 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). Furniss laid claim to the 200 meter Freestyle World Record from 1975 to 1979. His 1976 Olympic Gold Medal performance would last eight Olympic Quadrennials before being equaled by another American, Michael Phelps, in 2008.
Notably, Furniss's dream of winning a third, and, quite possibly, a fourth Olympic Gold Medal was thwarted when the International Olympic Committee removed the 200 meter Individual Medley and the 4x100 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 only eighteen Americans to ever hold the record), Furniss unquestionably was deemed the favorite for the event’s 1976 Olympic Gold Medal. Furniss was also U.S.A.'s third fastest in the 100 meter Freestyle in 1975, and was a member of the World Champion and World Record-holding quartet in the 4 × 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 eight years later.
A 1975 graduate of Tustin, California’s Foothill High School, Furniss is the third of four highly successful aquatic brothers, often referred to as “Orange County California’s First Family of Swimming”. Older brother Steve Furniss, 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 decision by the International Olympic Committee to remove the 200-meter Individual Medley from the 1976 Olympic Games robbed Bruce and Steve of the unique opportunity to compete against each other in an Olympic swimming event. However, Bruce and Steve 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 1975, while competing in the U.S. Sr. National Championships in Kansas City, Kansas. 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 (4×200 meter freestyle relay). Earlier that same summer at the World Swimming Championships Team Trials in Long Beach, California, Furniss also accomplished the rare feat of breaking the same World Record twice in the same day (June 18, 1975) in the 200 meter freestyle.
Furniss 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 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 2001, Furniss 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. Furniss also participated in carrying the Olympic flame as a participant of the 1984, 1996 and 2004 Olympic Torch Relays in the Los Angeles area.
In the midst of these extraordinary athletic accomplishments, and throughout much of his prime swimming career, Furniss became noted for achieving athletic success in spite of waging a quiet and very personal battle against the crippling arthritic disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Furniss graduated in 1979 from the USC Annenberg School of Communications, where he received his B.A. degree in Journalism.