October 22, 1960 -
Five-year-old William Paulus did not want to swim, but the instructor at River Crest Country Club said that he might win a trophy if he returned to the pool. That possibility appealed to young Paulus. By age six he had begun swimming competitively for the Panther City Boys Club and coach Doug Russell, who won the 100-meter butterfly at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Paulus developed an intense work ethic that combined with his talent to take him to four UIL state championships while swimming for Arlington Heights High School, setting state records in the 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley. Swimming for Coach Eddie Reese at the University of Texas, Paulus became a five-time Southwest Conference champion, and a four-time All-American. He helped the University of Texas win its first NCAA swimming championship in 1981.
During the 1980 Olympic trials in Irvine, California, Paulus won the 100-meter butterfly and then presidential-candidate Ronald Regan awarded him the first place medal. Yet the 1980 Olympic Boycott denied Paulus the chance to compete for his country. If it is any consolation, Paulus’s winning Olympic Trials time of 54.32 was better than the 54.92 that Sweden’s Par Arvidsson swam in winning the gold medal in Moscow. Whether Paulus could have returned from Moscow with two gold medals is unknown.
Nonetheless, on April 3, 1981, Paulus proved that he was the best 100-meter butterfly swimmer in the world, setting a world record of 53.81. This record stood for more than two years, until broken by fellow American Matt Gribble on August 6, 1983. By 1984, as Paulus claims, he had passed his prime, finishing fifth at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Even without a competitive Olympic gold medal, William Paulus still believes that he had a golden career!