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Tedford Harris Cann was a champion American swimmer and a recipient of the United States military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. He served as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve during World War I and earned the medal for saving his sinking ship.
- "For courageous conduct while serving on board the U.S.S. May, 5 November 1917. Cann found a leak in a flooded compartment and closed it at the peril of his life, thereby unquestionably saving the ship."
Cann resumed his swimming career after the war. Coached by Matt Mann, Cann swam with The New York Athletic Club and later the Detroit Athletic Club. On April 10, 1920 in Detroit, Michigan, he set the world record in the 200 meter freestyle (then called the 220 yard freestyle) with a time of 2:19.8, breaking the previous record of 2:21.6 set by Norman Ross in 1916. His record would stand until 1922, when Johnny Weissmuller swam the distance in 2:15.6. Also in 1920, Cann won the Amateur Athletic Union National Championships in the 50, 100 and 200 meter races, becoming the first person to win all three of those titles in a single year.
He had qualified for and was preparing to participate in the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp when he was involved in a serious car accident. On September 10, 1920, Cann and two other Olympic-hopefuls were in a taxicab in New York City, returning home from a late night out, when the driver crashed into an elevated railroad pillar. One of Cann's fellow passengers was fatally injured, and Cann's leg was broken in six places. He missed the Olympics due to his injury, which required him to use crutches for more than a year and left him with a permanent limp. Although he was never able to swim as fast as he had before the accident, Cann took up water polo with much success. He participated in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and played with The New York Athletic Club national champion polo team up to the early 1930s.