Thursday, October 29, 2020

Happy Birthday Amanda Beard !

 Amanda Beard (USA) 2018 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (4x100m medley), silver (100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke); 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: bronze (200m breaststroke); 2004 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m breaststroke), silver (200m I.M., 4x100m medley)

When Amanda Beard started serious training as an 11-year old, no one could have imagined that this California girl, whose role model was the flamboyant bad boy of basketball, Dennis Rodman, would become America’s best female breaststroker at the tender age of 13. Training under coach Dave Salo at Novaquatics Swim Club, her progress was so meteoric that she skipped Junior Nationals, jumping directly from competing against 12-year olds to the Senior Nationals.

In 1995, Amanda stood a little over 5-feet tall and weighed 90 pounds dripping wet. So slender as to appear fragile, yet she was tough enough to win her first U.S. national title and qualify for the Pan Pacs, where she won silver and bronze medals.

When she made her Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996, in the 100m breaststroke, Amanda did not disappoint. Swimming from lane five in the finals, Amanda went from next to last at the halfway mark to next to first, to finish just behind Hall of Famer, Penny Heyns, in American record time. Amanda would leave Atlanta with a second silver in the 200m breast and a gold medal for the 4x100 medley relay.

After the 1996 Atlanta Games, Amanda became a darling of the media. She had breakfast with Dennis Rodman and appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Unfortunately, she also suffered from the post “Olympic blues.” To make matters worse, she was experiencing a four-inch growth spurt and its accompanying extra pounds. Amanda struggled to reach the same speeds that had once come so easily when she was shaped more like a torpedo. In 1997, sportswriters started to wonder if she would ever do anything great in swimming again. Unfortunately, Beard would later say, it was the same negative loop she was playing in her own head, and she was drowning from the pressure of expectations. So, right after Nationals, Amanda decided to quit swimming permanently. Luckily, her sabbatical only lasted a few months. When she decided to return, she took a different approach, she would not put so much pressure on herself and more importantly, she wouldn’t just concentrate on her signature events.

By 1999, Amanda had regained her spark. She was adjusting her technique to suit her new physique and was one of the nation’s most sought-after college recruits. Her choice was to swim for coach Frank Busch at the University of Arizona and when she joined the team in the fall of 1999, she was 5 feet, eight inches tall and weighed 120 pounds.

Amanda was considered an underdog to make her second Olympic team, in 2000. At the Trials, she finished a disappointing eighth in the 100m breast, but the 200 was her best event. She finished second to Megan Quann and had qualified for Sydney.

In Sydney, Amanda struggled, recording the eighth fastest time in both the prelims and semi-finals, which put her in lane eight for the final. After a pep talk from coach Busch, and a painful burst of speed over the final ten meters, she captured the bronze medal by .01 seconds.

It took almost three very difficult years for Amanda to adjust to her new body. When she finally did, she was almost unbeatable. In 2002, she won double gold at the Pan Pacs, in Yokohama, Japan. In 2003, she won gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m at the FINA World Championships. At the 2004 US Olympic Trials, she qualified for four events, while breaking the world record in the 200m breaststroke.

In Athens, Amanda finally won her first individual gold medal when she won the 200m breaststroke in world record time. In the 200m individual medley, she won silver while setting a new American record. She won a second silver medal for the 4x100 medley relay and finished fourth in the 100m breaststroke.

After Athens, she embarked on a mission to turn herself from Olympic Champion into a lucrative brand name. Her life out of the pool was not without its challenges, as she describes in her 2012 memoir, “In the Water, They Can’t See You Cry.” Still, she had enough talent and toughness to train seriously for a few months and qualify for her fourth Olympic appearance, in Beijing, 2008, at the age of 27. At the final team training session, Amanda was elected to serve as one of three co-captains of the women’s Olympic swimming team. Although she placed a disappointing 18th in her signature 200m breaststroke event, she provided a role model for younger members of the team.

In 2009, Amanda married her soulmate, Sacha Brown, who she credits for encouraging her to seek therapy. In September of that same year, Amanda gave birth to their first child, a son, Blaise. After giving birth, she came out of retirement to swim in the 2010 Conoco Phillips National Championships. She had just hoped to be respectable, but finished second in the 200m breaststroke and qualified for the Pan Pacs, once again. This success led her to continue training for a chance to reach her fifth Olympic Games in 2012. After finishing fifth and failing to make the team, she retired again, and in 2013, she gave birth to a daughter, Doone Isla Brown.

Last year, Beard opened the Beard Swim Co., a learn to swim company lead by Amanda, out of Gig Harbor, Washington. Recognized for excellence by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, The Amanda Beard Swim School believes the ability to swim is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to a child.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

NYAC's Coach Gus Sundstrom was born on this day in 1858 !

GUS SUNDSTROM (USA) 1995 Pioneer Coach/Contributor

FOR THE RECORD:  1885, first swim coach and teacher at New York Athletic Club; Promoter of swimming and water polo; Coach of world record holders.

The 1926 edition of the New York Athletic Club's "Winged Foot" magazine read, "Professor Gus Sundstrom at 68 can swim around Manhattan Isle -- Has saved 3 lives, coached America's first great swimmers and is still one of the greatest examples of a good, healthy body."

He was born in 1858 in Brooklyn, the son of a "Scandinavian sea captain. Gus learned to swim at an early age and competed in many races in the rivers throughout New York City, for which winners received financial rewards.

When he was old enough to look after himself, Gus set out to sea on the tall ship, Western Bell.  On one of his worldly trips he was challenged to a mile race, in the Colombian River, by Big Red Fish, an Indian of the Pacific Coast.  Sundstrom was decisively beaten, but noticed the Indian swimming with an out-of-the-water arm recovery and thrashing legs, quite different from Gus' breaststroke and sidestroke.  He took this new stroke and tried to improve upon it.

It was in 1885 that the New York Athletic Club built its first city house in Manhattan, and Gus Sundstrom won the job as swimming instructor.  After competing and winning challenge races in the New York waters, including first ever swims around Manhattan Island, Sundstrom's reputation as a swimmer and New York Athletic Club instructor grew so that by 1890 he was selected as supervisor of swimming for the New York City schools, where he personally taught over 100,000 children to swim over the years.

As a water polo coach, his New York Athletic Club teams won many U.S. National titles, as well as the 1904 Olympic Games gold medal.  His leadership gave the sport notoriety and popularity, inspiring an average of 14,000 fans to attend the championships.  It soon became known as "the roughest game on earth."

Great American world record holders including Charles Daniels, Joe Ruddy and Bud Goodwin all came from the New York Athletic Club and benefited from the tutelage of Professor Gus.  Daniel's use of the over arm with thrashing leg kick dropped his time by eight seconds between his 1904 and 1908 Olympic gold medals.  Gus' achievements caused many people to call him the first great American coach of the modern era.

He not only produced great water polo teams and swimmers, his underwater stunts were known the world over, especially his plunge into the water smoking a cigar and coming up with it still lit.  Gus' own swims as a youth credited him as the champion long distance swimmer of the world, and his personal loyal service of 50 years to the New York Athletic Club earned him the respect of many supporters.  He died in 1936 at the age of 78.

Today we celebrate the birth of Sir Peter Heatly

 Sir Peter Heatly (GBR) 2016 Honor Contributor

FOR THE RECORD: MEMBER FINA TECHNICAL DIVING COMMITTEE: 1966-1988 (Chairman 1984-1988), Honorary Secretary (1972-1984); MEMBER LEN TECHNICAL DIVING COMMITTEE: 1966–1988; CHAIRMAN OF COMMONWEALTH GAMES FEDERATION: 1982-1990; APPOINTED LIFE VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES FEDERATION: 1990; 1948 OLYMPIC GAMES: diving competitor, (5th); 1952 OLYMPIC GAMES: diving competitor; 1950 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (10m Platform); 1954 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: silver (3m Springboard); 1958 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: gold (10m platform); 1966 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Scottish Team Manager; 1974 COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Scottish Team Manager; CHAIRMAN OF THE SCOTTISH SPORTS COUNCIL: 1975-1987.

As a swimmer, he was the Scottish freestyle champion and record holder over several distances between 1942 and 1947 before deciding to concentrate on diving. Self-taught and self-coached, he won gold medals at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 Commonwealth Games on the 10-meter platform and represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games in 1948 in London and in 1952 in Helsinki.

After Peter Heatly’s career as an athlete ended, he decided to give back to the sports he so loved. He would serve the aquatic sports in some capacity for over seventy years at the local, national and international levels as either a manager, official or administrator.

Peter joined the FINA and LEN technical diving committees in 1966, serving as Honorary Secretary of the FINA Committee from 1972 to 1984 and Chairman from 1984 to 1988. He was selected Chairman of the Great Britain Swimming Federation in 1981 and again in 1992. He served as chairman of the National Scottish Learn to Swim Campaign from 1964 to 1974 and went on to become Chairman of the Scottish Sports Council from 1975 to 1987. 

Heatly was involved in 17 consecutive Commonwealth Games from 1950 to 2014, becoming Vice -Chairman of the Organizing Committee, when the Games were held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1970, and Chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation from 1982 to 1990 after the first ever balloted election.

As a Chartered Civil Engineer, he produced and delivered papers on the design of swimming pools to professional bodies both in Great Britain and Europe. He also received Honorary Doctorates from three universities for his contributions to the sport.

Peter Heatly was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1971 and in 1990 was installed as a Knight of the Realm by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. He was inducted into the Scottish Hall of Fame in 2002 and into the Scottish Swimming Hall of Fame in 2010.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Happy Birthday Madame Butterfly

MARY T. MEAGHER (USA) 1993 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 7 WORLD RECORDS: 100m butterfly (2), 200m butterfly (5); OLYMPIC GAMES: 1980 (boycott), 1984 gold (100m butterfly, 200m butterfly, 400m medley relay), 1988 bronze (200m butterfly); WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1982 gold (100m butterfly), silver (200m butterfly, 400m medley relay), 1986 gold (200m butterfly), silver (400m freestyle relay, 400m medley relay), bronze (100m butterfly); PAN AMERICAN GAMES: 1979 gold (200m butterfly), 1983 gold (200m butterfly).

Known affectionately as "Madame Butterfly," Mary T. Meagher has held the women's world record for the 100 and 200 meter butterfly for over a decade.  Meagher's records, set in 1981, are steadily approaching the longest-standing world record of all time by Hall of Famer Willy den Ouden of Holland.  Her 100m freestyle record remained untouched from July of 1933 to February of 1956-- 23 years.  Hall of Famer Dawn Fraser had the honor of breaking the famous mark at the Olympic Games in Melbourne.

A member of the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Olympic teams, Mary T. captured gold medals in the 100m butterfly, the 200m butterfly, and the 400m medley relay at the Games in Los Angeles.  Her 100 and 200 fly times were both Olympic records.

In 1981, Meagher established world records in the 200 fly (2:05.96) and the 100 fly (57.93) at the U.S. Long Course National Championships in Brown Deer, Wisconsin.  Her 200 fly time is rated as the fifth-greatest single event performance by Sports Illustrated magazine.  Mary T. holds the top 11 times in history in the 200 fly and is the only woman to swim under 2:07.

Born to parents Jim and Floy of Louisville, Kentucky, Mary T. is the tenth of eleven children in a close-knit family and is known as Mary T. to distinguish her from the eldest Mary in the family, Mary Glen.  The initial stands for her mother's maiden name, Terstegge.

It all began for Mary, when as a 14-year-old girl who wore railroad track braces and traveled with a stuffed green frog named "Bubbles," she set her first world record at the 1979 Pan American Games.

Coached by Dennis Pursely at Lakeside Aquatic Club in Louisville, Mary T.'s success continued as she qualified for the 1980 Olympic Games and then went on to swim to unparalleled world records in 1981.

Mary T. enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley in the fall of 1982 and met up with another all-star butterflyer, Hall of Famer and Berkeley head coach Karen Moe Thornton.  During her collegiate career, Mary T. won NCAA Championship each year of her four years with the Golden Bears.

After her wins at the Olympic Games in 1984, Mary T. had planned to retire, but her desire to break her own world record and the fact that she still held 17 of the fastest 200 fly times in the world was enough to convince her to give it another try.  More importantly to Mary, however, as a loyal and dedicated athlete, she would feel badly about staying home.

In a sport where tenths and even hundredths of a second separate first through last place, timing is everything.  At the 1988 Games in Seoul, Mary finished third in the 200 fly final won by Kathleen Nord of the German Democratic Republic.  It is worth mentioning that Mary T. swam faster at the U.S. Trials (2:09.13) than Nord's winning time at Seoul (2:09.51).

Besides her butterfly prowess, Mary T. is known for her genuine personality and cheerful smile.  She was a self-motivator whose desire to succeed, not only for herself but her team, led her to many gold medal performances.

Celebrate the birthday of Australia's Fanny Durack!

FANNY DURACK (AUS) 1967 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1912 gold (100m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: 11 freestyle  (between 1912 and 1918); 100yd freestyle (1912 to 1921); 100m freestyle (1912 to 1920); 220yd freestyle (1915 to 1921); 500m freestyle (1916 to 1917); 1 mile (1914 to 1926).

The first great woman swimmer was the first Olympic champion, Fanny Durack, Australian, who traveled the world even as Sarah Bernhardt, the champion of champions for many years.  Fanny Durack was already an old-timer when Olympic organizers finally admitted a woman's swimming event in 1912 at Stockholm.  She won, and her records from that time held for 8 or 9 years until American Ethelda Bleibtrey caught up with her as much by age as by talent.

Durack held 11 world records between 1912 and 1918 in the limited world of trudgen swimming and women's Australian crawl 2-beat freestyle.  Her world tours did more to promote swimming than any woman with the possible exception of her Australian countryman Annette Kellerman.  On a U. S. tour in 1912, Miss Durack got newspaper billing as "holding all championships for deep diving and for staying under water continuously."

Fanny Durack not only took on all comers the world over, but beat all comers the world over for 8 years in the formative years of women's swimming.  She did more than any other swimmer to make the term "Australian Crawl" a definition which survives until this day although completely inaccurate.  The Australian crawl of Fanny Durack was a 2-beat kick, an opposite action with one arm stroke, opposite leg action, and completely different from the American crawl, 6-beat kick, completely independent of the arm strokes popular today.

Durack held the 100 yard freestyle record from 1912 to 1921, the 100 meter freestyle record from 1912 to 1920; the 220 yard freestyle record from 1915 to 1921, the 500 meter freestyle record from 1915 to 1917 and the mile record from 1914 to 1926.

Fanny Durack was finally defeated by American Ethelda Bleibtrey but no one did more to dominate women's swimming longer than Australian Fanny Durack.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Happy Birthday Manuel Estiarte !

 Manuel Estiarte (ESP) 2007 Honor Water Polo Player

FOR THE RECORD: 1980 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4th; 1984 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4th; 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: 6th; 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: silver; 1996 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold; 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4th; 1991, 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver; 1998 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold; 1991, 1995, 1997, 1999 FINA WORLD CUP: bronze; 1983,1991, 1993, 1997, 1999 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (1991), bronze (1983,1993), 5th (1997), 6th (1999);

At just 5'8" and weighing 145 pounds, Manuel Estiarte would seem to be an unlikely candidate to be considered the greatest player of all-time in a sport whose players average 6'3” and 200 plus pounds. But Manuel's career proved once again that it's not the size of the man, but the size of his heart and what's in the head that counts the most. Born in Manresa, Spain, in 1961, Manuel Estiarte began playing water polo as soon as he could swim and at the Barcelona Swimming Club (BSC) was identified as a water polo prodigy. He was 15 when he made his international debut and within three years was the top scorer at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. He repeated as the leading scorer in 1984 Los Angeles with a record 34 goals as the Most Outstanding Player of the Games. He led all players in scoring again in 1988 at Seoul with 26 goals.

In 1992 Estiarte became a national hero after leading Spain to its first-ever Olympic medal, silver, in their host city of Barcelona. But finishing the Games as top scorer again was little comfort following a dramatic gold medal final against Ratko Rudic's Italian team. Estiarte converted a penalty 42 seconds from full time to put Spain ahead, but nine seconds later Italy equalized and went on to win in extra time. Four years later, in Atlanta, Spain and Estiarte were once again in the Olympic final, but this time the result was different. With ten seconds to play and Spain up 7- 5 against Croatia, Estiarte took possession.

"I've dreamt of this moment all my life," he said afterwards. "The last ten seconds of the Olympic final, I have the ball and Spain wins the gold medal. I waited five Olympics, but it finally happened." All totaled, in a career that spanned over two decades, he competed in more Olympic Games, six, and scored more than any other player in Olympic history, 127. He competed in over 578 international games for the Spanish team, scoring over 600 goals. For many years, he played in the Italian Professional League with Club Pescara winning a water polo grand slam of four European Championships. In 1998, he was voted Best Player of the Perth World Championships. “I had the privilege to take part in six Olympic Games, and in each one of them I felt emotions too special to be described. From the first, when I was just a young man, to the last, where I won and I had the honor of carrying my homeland's flag."

Following his retirement after the Sydney Games he served as a member of the International Olympic Committee Athletes´s Commission until 2004.

Happy belated Birthday Bobby Webster (October 25)


ROBERT WEBSTER (USA) 1970 Honor Diver

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1960 gold (platform); 1964 gold (platform); PAN AMERICAN GAMES: 1963 gold (platform); 1971 (U.S. Diving Coach); U.S. NATIONAL AAU CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1960 through 1964 (won all tower diving contests); 1962 (1m springboard); BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1960 (3m springboard).

"From California to the New York harbor, from the redwood forests to the Gulfstream waters", double Olympic champion Bob Webster's diving career was coast to coast.  He won his Olympic gold medals in Rome and Tokyo.  He came out of California to college at Michigan and now coaches at Princeton.

Webster is primarily known as a tower diver, yet he was U.S. National AAU champion in 1 meter low board (1962) and Big Ten 3 meter high board champion (1960).  Webster won his first Olympic title (10 meter platform) in Rome just three years after he took his first tower dive in competition.  From that date (1960) until his retirement after winning the 1964 Olympic platform title in Tokyo, Webster never lost a tower diving contest.

He won his first collegiate title diving for Santa Ana Junior College, a school without a pool.  He prepared for the Southern Section Junior College Championships training off a board in Olympic champion Sammy Lee's back yard sand pit. From Santa Ana, Webster went to the University of Michigan where he was coached by Dick Kimball and by the late Bruce Harlan, himself an Olympic champion in 1948.

Following his retirement as a competitive diver, Webster took a Far East tour for the State Department and then began a coaching career at Minnesota and Princeton.  Bob was appointed U.S. Diving Coach for the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia.  This trip stands as an honor richly deserved since Webster, in 1963 at Sao Paulo, Brazil, was the first U.S. diver to win 10 meter diving in the history of the Pan American Games.