On September 16, 1976, world-champion finswimmer Shavarsh Karapetyan was finishing a 13-mile training run in Armenia when he suddenly heard a disturbing sound.
A trolleybus had fallen over a dam wall and plunged into Yerevan Lake.
The 23-year-old immediately sprinted to the scene, stripped down, and dove into the sewage-strewn water to save as many people as possible.
Despite near-zero visibility, Karapetyan swam 15 feet down to reach the trolleybus only to discover there was no open window.
So, he decided to kick the rear window out, lacerating his legs in the process.
Over the next 20 minutes, Karapetyan managed to bring 37 people to the surface, 20 of whom survived.
Another nine escaped on their own through the window he’d broken open.
Karapetyan’s heroism left him with permanently-scarred lungs after he developed pneumonia, and he spent the next three weeks in a hospital bed before he could walk again.
But the following year, he participated in two final competitions — where he won a gold medal and broke his 11th world record — before retiring for good.