Gus Brickner of Charleroi has been called the “Human Polar Bear” because of his cold water swimming exploits.
Brickner, a retired steel worker, swam a total of 38,512 miles before Nov. 1, 1986, a record which appears in the Guinness Book of World Records. For many years, he has been swimming every day of the year except Christmas in the Monongahela River, regardless of weather.
He has done cold water swims in the Monongahela, Allegheny and Youghiogheny Rivers and is well-known for his New Year’s Day swims on television in Pittsburgh from 1951 through 1970. His long distance swims have included 18, 15, 12 10 and eight miles in the Monongahela, 25 in the Allegheny, 21 at Youghiogheny Lake Reservoir and 18 1/2 at Deep Creek Lake, Md. in addition to 15-mile swims in Lake Ontario at Toronto.
He twice attempted to swim the English Channel but was pulled from the water four miles from shore in 1957 and 400 yards from the shore of Dover, England in 1960.
Brickner, a former employee of the U.S. Steel Donora Mill and Christy Park Works at McKeesport, also speaks to various groups on swimming and physical fitness.