Olympian Eleanor Holm graced the cover in 1939, promoting her post-Olympics career as a professional swimmer. That year, she was headlining a World’s Fair exhibition called the Aquacade, a million-dollar spectacle estimated to bring in four million visitors that year.
But it was for her Olympic prowess that Holm became an in-demand aquatic personality.
TIME’s cover story explains how Holm got her start: “[S]he had expert swimming instruction as soon as she had made her start on water wings. Her unequalled backstroke was developed by a coach who found her backstroke the weakest in her free-style repertory and set her to practicing it exclusively.’
Her first games, the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, saw her place fifth. At the 1932 Los Angeles games, she nabbed gold in her signature event, the 100-meter backstroke. The decorated swimmer was starting to garner attention of other arenas, and she was quickly groomed for a movie star career in Hollywood (though she starred in only one film) and a career as a professional swimmer.