Richard Abrahams, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Saul Abrahams, was born on the 20th of March, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. At the beginning of his high school career, his family moved from Scarsdale, New York, to North Miami Beach, Florida.
Abrahams joined his high school’s swimming team as a way to stay in shape for basketball, but later dropped the basketball team to focus on swimming. During his senior year of high school he won All City honors for his performance in the 50 yard freestyle and the 100 yard butterfly. He was also named a Miami News swimming all-star. After graduation, Abrahams accepted an athletic scholarshp from Northwestern University.
In the middle of Abraham's sophomore season at Northwestren, his coach, Bill Peterson, allowed him to begin competing in freestyle events instead of butterfly ones. The first time Abrahams was entered in a collegiate freestyle competition was at Ohio State University. In the race, a 50 yard sprint, his foot got caught during his turn. He managed to break loose and still place third in the race. Peterson was impressed by this display of competitiveness, and he allowed Abrahams to continue swimming freestyle in meets. At the end of this season, Abrahams achieved a controversial victory in the 50 yard freestyle at the Big 10 Championships, tying the pool record for the event with a time of 22.1 seconds. One of his competitors, Mike Stauffer of Minnesota, was also clocked in at 22.0 seconds, but according to the consensus of the judges, Abrahams finished first. Northwestern University awarded Abrahams with the Varsity Athlete of the Year laurels for his performance during this season. He qualified for the 1964 Olympic Trials, which were held in the summer following his sophomore year. However, he was unable to reach the finals, as he had no prior experience swimming long course.
At the end of his junior season, he finished second in the 50 yard freestyle and nearly made the finals in the 100 yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships. Once again, he was nominated for the Northwestern Varsity Athlete of the Year award. Abrahams made the United States team for Israel’s 1965 Maccabiah Games in Tel Aviv where he won three gold medals. His win in the 100 meter freestyle set a meet record. During the following year, his senior one, Abrahams was inducted into the “N” Men’s Club. In the finale of his undergraduate swimming career, the 1966 Big 10 Championships, Abrahams finished first in both the 50 yard freestyle and the 100 yard freestyle.
During his sophomore year, he was initiated into the Norleggama Honor Council. In his senior year, Abrahams received the Big Ten medal for excellence in athletics and scholarship. After graduating form Northwestern, he attended Columbia University Law School. He practiced law in New York City and, later, in Denver. He then changed careers, earning a Master’s Degree in Recreation at the University of Colorado.
Abrahams began swimming competitively again in February of 1974. Two years later, he swam at the Masters Nationals meet, where he claimed a silver medal. He continued competing in Masters swimming meets, and set a national age-group record for the 50 yard freestyle at the age of 40. Six years later, he set a world record for his age group in the 50 meter freestyle event at the Championships in Rio de Janeiro. Abrahams set more than ten world records and more than twenty American records for Masters swimming. When he turned 60, Abrahams set ten American records and four world records for the 60-64 age-group. In 2006, he was honored by Geezerjock magazine as one of the male athletes of the year.
In 2011 Abrahams was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame.