The International Swimming Hall of Fame is saddened to announce that Bob Duenkel(Robert“Bob” Duenkel), a long time employee of the organization, has passed away this morning after a long illness. He was 74 years old.
Bob Duenkel had a love of swimming for most of life. He began swimming for the YMCA of New Jersey, went on to swim through high school where in 1960, he was a State Record Holder, a New Jersey AAU Junior and Senior Champion. He attended Kansas State University was a many time record holder, a multi award winner in swimming and played on the first ever KSU water polo team. After graduating from KSU with both an undergraduate and Masters Degree in Physical Education, Bob moved to Fort Lauderdale. He taught at Northeast High School as a Physical Education Teacher, worked as a water safety instructor and worked for the Fort Lauderdale Beach Patrol, all before“Buck” Dawson convinced him to work as his assistant at Hall of Fame in 1976.
The ISHOF position afforded Bob the opportunity to work exclusively in the field of his passion – swimming. He had time to train as a Masters swimmer in the Hall of Fame Pool and coach swimming at Broward Community College. In 1978 he was named National Junior College Swimming Coach of the Year. In the summer of 1976 he also took over the running of Dawson’s Camp Chikopi, a boys Sports and Wilderness Camp in Ontario, Canada. Chikopi was also the world’s first swimming camp, founded in 1920 by US Olympic swimming coach, Matt Mann, Dawson’s father-in-law. When Dawson passed away he left the camp to Bob and his wife Colette, who has been running it during Bob’s illness.
Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame
Bob’s great contribution to swimming however, was his 40+ years of dedication and service to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. As Dawson’s assistant he absorbed the history of swimming like a sponge, not just from Dawson, but through the lips of Johnny Weissmuller, Eleanor Holm, Buster Crabbe, Esther Williams and many, many more. His knowledge of swimming history was encyclopedic. He studied and knew about the minutest details about swimming and swimmers, from the ancient Greek swimmer Leander to the most recent inductee, every Olympiad, every event, every time and every stroke. He was museum curator and presided over 40 years of ISHOF Induction ceremonies. From 2004-2005 he served as interim CEO and served Executive Director until his retirement in 2016. There will never be another person more knowledgeable about every aspect of aquatics than Bob Duenkel.
“Bob was a dear friend, co-worker and undoubtedly the ‘Heart and Soul of the Hall of Fame,’” says Laurie Marchwinski, ISHOF COO. “On behalf of all the ISHOF staff, it was an honor and privilege to work with Bob. He leaves behind a legacy that will always be remembered.”
“Beyond his contribution of preserving swimming history for future generations,” says Bruce Wigo, ISHOF’s past CEO, “Bob was the most unselfish caring person in the world and I will forever be indebted to him for sharing his passion for swimming history.”
“When I go through life and think about what the nicest person in the world would do,” says long time friend Tom Giovine, founder of Giovine Capital Management, “I think of Bob Duenkel.”
“I’ll always remember Bob as somebody who really cared about people,” says 1980 Olympian and World Record holder Craig Beardsley.
In 1988 Bob coached the US team to the FINA Long Distance Cup Championships. In 1997 he was named in Aquatic’s International Magazine as a “Who’s Who in Aquatics. In 1997, Bob received the Glen S. Hummer Award, given by USA swimming to the person or group making the greatest contribution to long distance swimming. In 1998 he was elected Treasurer of the Association of Sports Museums and Halls of Fames (now ISHA). In 1999 he was inducted into the Orange, New Jersey Atletics Hall of Fame, along with his sister, who won the Olympic 400 meter freestyle at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Bob is survived by his wife Colette, daughter Teagan, of Fort Lauderdale, sister Ginny Fuldner and brother Richard Duenkel.
“I was calmed down by the pool, everything was in order. There, I created stories, wrote many volumes of harlequin, I studied for testing, I sang songs. Water gave me a sense of security. It was a place where the world did not threaten me. I knew it was my time that no one would call, take a break, or take me to another place. Everyone has their home and they feel calm when they close the door from the inside. I had water.” – Otylia Jedrzejczak
Otylia Jedrzejczak was born in Ruda Slaska in December of 1983. She has been elected best sportsman three-times in Poland and received the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (5th Class) in 2004.
Otylia was diagnosed with a slight curvature of the spine, so she began swimming at age six, because doctors thought it would help. Unfortunately, she had no interest in the sport, but luckily, her father had the last word. Her attitude soon changed after she won her first title at a competition in Germany at age eight. High School was when Otylia began to really take swimming seriously. In 1999, led by coach Maria Jakobik, Otylia won her first championship at the Junior Europeans in Moscow in the 100m and 200m butterfly, which would soon become her signature event.
Photo Courtesy: Otylia Jedrzejczak
Making it to the podium in both the 1999 and 2000 Senior European Championships opened the way to Otylia’s first Olympic appearance in Sydney, 2000. She was the youngest on the team, at only 15 years old, and her coach then was Pawel Slonimski. She placed 5th in the 200m butterfly.
Otylia set her first world record in the 200m butterfly with a time of 2:05.78 at the 2002 European Championships in Berlin. She also took gold in the 200 and a silver in the 100m butterfly.
One year later at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain she won gold in the 200 and silver in the 100m butterfly. She continued her dominance in the 200m butterfly at the 2004 European Championships in Madrid, where she defended her title, along with taking bronze in the 100m butterfly event.
It was at the 2004 Olympics in Athens that Otylia really made her mark by winning gold in the 200m butterfly. She owed her success to a brilliant finish in the last 50 meters of the race, in which she overtook Aussie Petria Thomas, who was in the lead for most of the race. In addition to her gold, she took home two silver medals, one in the 100m butterfly and the other in the 400m freestyle. It was during these Games that Otylia equaled the number of medals earned by a Polish athlete in a single Olympics. She ties legendary Polish Sprinter, Irena Szewinska and makes history in her country.
Otylia revealed after the race that in June at the pre-Olympic Trials, that if she won an Olympic gold medal, she would auction it off and give the proceeds to a charity that helps children suffering with leukemia. The auction was a great success, raising over $101,000 USD. Otylia donated the money to the Oncology and Haenatology Clinic of Wroclaw’s Children’s Hospital.
At the 2005 World Championships in Montreal, Canada, Jedrzejczak once again defended her 200m butterfly title. She improved her own world record by a time of 2:05.61 beating Australian Jessicah Schipper by only 0.04 seconds.
Tragedy stuck Jedrzejczak on October 1, 2005, when she was severely injured in a car accident that tragically killed her 19-year-old brother, Szymon. The accident and its aftermath took its toll on Otylia and she took a break from training. Finally, after nearly 8 months off, Otylia returned to the pool. “After months, I began to feel that the water was friendly with me,” she says.
In 2006, Otylia returned to competitive swimming, participating in the European Championships in Budapest. She finished first in the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly and with her team, took silver in the 4 x 200m relay.
On December 13, 2007, Otylia’s 24th birthday, she continued her reign at the Short Course World Championships by setting a new world record in the 200m butterfly in Debrecen, Hungary, in a time of 2:03.53.
Photo Courtesy: Otylia Jedrzejczak
At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Jedrzejczak struggled to regain her dominance, managing to only reach 9th place in the 200m freestyle and 17th in the 100. Otylia was hoping to make the podium in her signature event, the 200m butterfly, but just missed it by placing fourth.
After returning from Beijing in 2008, Jedrzejczak told the media that she would most likely retire from her career as a professional swimmer. However, Otylia continued swimming and qualified for the 2012 London Olympics in the 100 and 200m butterfly. Unfortunately, she did not qualify for the finals at the Games. Otylia Jedrzejczak may not have finished her career on the high note she wanted, but her record certainly speaks for itself. Four Olympic Games, three Olympic medals, three World Records and much, much more.
Photo Courtesy: Otylia Jedrzejczak
Today, Otylia Jedrzejczak is actively involved in a variety of activities and charity work. She was a candidate in the European Parliament elections in 2014 from the PO list and in 2015, was a member of the committee supporting Bronslaw Komorowski. Otylia was a judge on the television program, “Celebrity Splash,” and has done some acting. She starred in the series “Rodzinka.pl” and “Pierwsza Milosc,” and appeared in a music video for the band “Varius Manx” for the song, “Too Much Forces.”
She is the founder of the Otylia Jedrzejczak Foundation, which she set up when she was an athlete. The foundation had a positive impact on not only her sports development but also her life. Through the foundation today, Otylia strives to help athletes benefit from the positive impact that she herself experienced. Otylia says, “Sport is a great adventure of life, which teaches consistency and determination in pursuing a goal, and failure is a stop on the way to success.” The foundation’s goal is to implement modern training methods leading to sustainable development of juniors athletes where they develop a learning system focused not only on improving physical but also psychological efficiency.
The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Induction Ceremony is shaping up to be a star-studded weekend with multiple events spread out over three days in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Make your plans now to attend the weekend of May 17-19, 2019! ISHOF Members can purchase the Weekend Package and Save!
This year’s International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees include Swimmers: Jason Lezak (USA), Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL), Stephanie Rice (AUS), Britta Steffen (GER); Diver: Ting Li (CHN); Water Polo Player: Alessandro Campagna (ITA); Coach: Boris Popov (RUS); Synchronized Swimmer: Olga Sedakova (RUS); Open Water Swimmer: Marcy MacDonald (USA); Contributor: Dr. Ferenc Salamon (HUN); and Pioneer: Alfred Nakache* (FRA).
ISHOF will also present the 2019 Gold Medallion Award to Dr. Joseph B. MacInnis.
Host Hotel: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa
Four and a half star upscale retreat with private beach access, two pools, four restaurants, full service spa and oceanside bar. Location of the Saturday evening induction ceremony. ¼ mile south of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
3030 Holiday Drive, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 525-4000
Black History Month is a time for us in the aquatic community to reflect on why more African Americans and people of color don’t swim. Especially because for at least 400 years (the period from from 1451 – 1860), People of African descent, Native Americans and the indigenous populations of Oceana excelled “all others in the arts of swimming and diving.” The cultural history of swimming is both tragic and fascinating and while it helps explain how people of color lost their aquatic traditions and how European/Caucasians became the most accomplished swimmers today – it’s only part of the story.
Last week, John Legend confided on Twitter that he couldn’t swim and was taking his first swim lesson since he was a five year old child.
His announcement, along with the release this week of “A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim” is bringing renewed awareness to the swimming gap between people of color and white people, not just in the USA but around the world. But knowledge of this gap is nothing new. We’ve known about it for almost 100 years. The question is what can be done to fix it and realize the founding goal of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which is “every child a swimmer.”
John Legend Learning to swim at KidsswimLA
Interestingly, Legend graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. Had he attended Penn 40 years earlier he would have been required to learn to swim before receiving his degree. For Penn was the first college in America to build a swimming pool for its students and in 1904 it was the first to make passing a swimming test a requirement for graduation. It was in keeping with the philosophy of the school’s founding father and swimming enthusiast, Dr. Benjamin Franklin.
“I Cannot be of opinion with you that ’tis too late in life for you to learn to swim,” Franklin wrote to a friend in the mid 18th century. “I wish all men were taught to do so in their youth; they would, on many occurrences, be the safer for having that skill, and on many more the happier, as freer from painful apprehensions of danger, to say nothing of the enjoyment in so delightful and wholesome an exercise…And if I had now boys to educate, I should prefer those schools (other things being equal) where an opportunity was afforded for acquiring so advantageous an art, which once learnt is never forgotten.”
Franklin did not see swimming as a sport. Rather he saw the ability to swim as an essential life skill, the source of good health and lifelong joy. He also saw it as a “scientific phenomena” which it was for Europeans during his lifetime. This explains why his letter to Oliver Naeve (portions of which are quoted above) was included in the 4th edition of Benjamin Franklin’s Experiments and Observations on Electricity, which he published in London, in 1769.
As a swimmer, Franklin was an outlier. He was a self-taught and an accomplished swimmer by the age of ten at a time when few people of European descent swam. In his day it was the Africans, Native Americans and the indigenous populations of Oceana who “excelled all others in the arts of swimming and diving.” In their tropical climates and warm waters, mothers typically taught their children to swim before they could walk. Before the American civil war 80% of African Americans could swim compared to 20% of Euro-Americans and almost no women of any race swam. Today, those percentages are almost exactly reversed and there are more female competitive swimmers than males. The cultural history of swimming crosses both race and gender and it is helpful for understanding how the stereotypes and cultural attitudes about swimming have been turned upside down.
The racial swimming gap is not only present in the number of elite swimming competitors and drowning statistics – but in all aquatic activities from Navy Seals to crew men and women on luxury yachts, on lifeguard stands, as marine biologists, sailors, surfers, scuba divers and many, many more professions and recreations.
In his Proposals for the Education of Youth (1749), Franklin noted that the Romans marked someone who was uneducated as someone who could “neither read nor swim. For while math, and the sciences are useful, only the ability to swim can save a life”. Studies show that if a child doesn’t learn to swim by the age of seven, he or she likely never will. The same studies show that children of non-swimming parents will likely not learn to swim.
John Legend is not your average African American. He and his wife Chrissy Teigen can afford to pay for and take their toddlers to swimming lessons and change the culture that has not made swimming a priority in his family. It is for this reason I believe there is only one way to right the wrongs of history and that is to treat swimming as an educational subject as Benjamin Franklin proposed in 1749 But for reasons stated above it should not be done in college or high school – it must be done in elementary school, as in countries like the Netherlands and Sweden. In those nations children are required to pass a swim test before moving on to middle school.
Yes, pools are expensive, but we don’t need to build competitive race pools at every elementary school. We need to build warm waterteaching pools not unlike the pool John Legend is learning in, and hire competent instructors. But we also need to educate parents about the importance of swimming and acclimating their children to the water. As world-renowned swimming coach and instructor Laurie Lawrence of Australia advocates – the first swimming lesson begins with the first bath.
But it’s not just a matter of water safety. All humans spend their first nine months as swimmers. When we emerge from the womb we all have the bradycardic reflex, which is part of the mammalian diving reflex – just like dolphins, whales and seals. When our faces are exposed to cold water as infants, our hearts slows down and blood is shifted away from the peripheral muscles to conserve oxygen for the brain and heart, and we hold their breath. We are of the sea and it is no coincidence that our body fluids are nearly identical to sea water.
There is also something spiritual, if you will, about the water. In his book, the Blue Mind, Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, explores the Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What We do. In addition learning-to-swim can open minds to the two-thirds of the planet that is covered with water and to the innumerable occupational and recreational and opportunities that are denied to those who cannot swim.
John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen are to be greatly commended for exploring this issue and doing their part to change world culture to one where everyone can swim. The earth is, after all, is the only planet we know of that has liquid water. How can you be an earthling and not know how to enjoy an element that covers 2/3rd of our planet.
Watch 3 year old Henry White swim 100 meters at the Hall of Fame pool
Watch 2 year old Isabelle demonstrate the joy of swimming that every child should be entitled to experience. 2 year old Isabelle expressing the Joy of Swimming
Watch Norfolk, Virgina News Anchor Regina Mobley tell her story of learning to swim at the age of 46
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.