Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Back in Time: Answer Man Learns to swim with Florence Skadding, the 1920s ‘Washington Mermaid’

Florence Skadding, left, and H.J. McMillan in 1925 at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md. (Library of Congress)

by John Kelly (Answer Man)
Washington Post Columnist
June 17, 2017

As comfortable as Florence Skadding was in the water — the “Washington Mermaid,” some called her — she must have felt a bit uneasy as she floundered briefly in the Atlantic City inlet channel on Sept. 5, 1923.

The 21-year-old Florence was participating in a 440-yard ocean-swimming race, but had been blinded by waves and backwash churned up by several passing motorboats.

The headline in the next day’s Washington Post story — “Florence Skadding Near Death in Swim” — was perhaps a tad melodramatic, but things had definitely been touch and go for a while. “Several police boats and a coast guard cutter signaled from the shore went to her assistance,” The Post reported, “but the Washington girl, recovering her sight after a few seconds, refused to be taken aboard any of the vessels and swam to shore.”

Florence came in sixth out of eight swimmers. Florence was not used to coming in sixth.

Answer Man has been perusing old stories about swimming in Washington. He kept encountering a short-and-stocky natator named Florence Skadding. She competed in diving competitions around town. She performed swimming exhibitions. She taught lifesaving. She coached swim teams.

“Washington Mermaid,” indeed. If it was wet, Florence wanted to be in it or on it. (She also enjoyed canoeing.)

Florence never competed in the Olympics — she tried out for the 1924 Games but failed to earn a spot — but she served as Washington’s unofficial “first lady of swimming.”

She shot to prominence in 1920 at the Tidal Basin, which once sported a whites-only beach, roughly where the Jefferson Memorial is now. While other competitors in the weekly women’s races employed the demure side stroke — thought to be more appropriate for the fairer sex — Florence dared to swim the crawl.

“She was a woman and women didn’t do these things back in those days,” said Florence’s older daughter, Peggy Dwyer of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It was like a no-no, but she did it anyway.”

Florence was in the first organized unit of the American Red Cross Women’s Life Saving Corps, established in 1920. She won lifesaving competitions that included not just swimming but also such events as the “head carry” and the “cross shoulder carry.”

When The Post wanted to illustrate a story in 1925 on proper swimming technique, it photographed Florence doing the breaststroke, writing: “Look closely at the surface of the water and see if you cannot make out the frog position of her legs.”

She also took part in “aquaplaning,” a competition that saw swimmers pulled behind speedboats as they stood on what resembled Boogie Boards.

In 1932, Florence married Lyman E. Morris, an officer in the Army Air Corps and a Riggs Bank executive, or, as The Post put it, she “quit swimming pools to embark on the sea of matrimony as Mrs. Morris.”

“That didn’t last very long,” snorted Peggy when Answer Man read that line to her. Peggy said her mother didn’t really slow down: “She used to teach adult swimming classes at the Shoreham Hotel. I was 4 years old. She would take me along because I could swim. I would just fool around in the shallow end while she taught adult women.”

Florence also took kids from her Barnaby Woods neighborhood to the city pool in Takoma and taught them to swim.

In 1960, as she prepared to move with Lyman to West Palm Beach, Fla., Florence reflected on the ways her favorite pastime had changed. There were heated pools now, she told The Post, and lane markers. But the main change was in who was swimming.

“It used to be that only young people went swimming,” Florence said. “But I’ve taught many women in their 60s and 70s to swim and they enjoy it very much.”

Florence’s grandson Kurt Wienants, himself a swimmer, said that well into her 80s Florence would attend diving competitions and sit on the pool deck, close to the water she loved so much.

“She was barely able to walk, but she was always there,” he said.

Florence Skadding Morris died, at 87, in 1989.

**Florence Skadding Morris' daughter, Peggy, who is mentioned in the article,  swam regularly at the Hall of Fame pool for dozens and dozens of years.  And her grandson, Kurt Weinants, also mentioned, swam for the Fort Lauderdale Swim Team, the University of Miami and Jack Nelson for many years.  Kurt now has a son himself, who is also a swimmer.  I think Florence would be very proud the family is keeping her love of swimming alive.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020


ISHOF Honor Diver and Mexican Olympian, Carlos Giron, has passed away after a long battle with a lung infection at age 65.

Giron entered the hospital just before Christmas due to pneumonia, and during his stay, acquired a bacterial infection that complicated his infection further. He died today, Monday, January 13, 2020.

Carlos was a five-time Olympian, competing in the 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games. He won silver on the 3-meter springboard at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. He also placed 4th on the platform.

Longevity and consistency were the hallmarks of Giron’s career. People described his diving as “simply beautiful”.

While the 3-meter springboard was his main event, his diving talent was almost equally matched on the 10-meter platform as well.

Travelling to Fort Lauderdale to attend the International Diving Meet was always a favorite of Giron’s. He looked forward to the meet held every May and his visits to the ISHOF museum. He started coming in 1976, when it was then called the CAN-AM-MEX meet and continued attending through the mid-1980’s, when it became the International Diving Meet. During his years in Fort Lauderdale, Giron won a combined seven gold, three silver and one bronze medal, on the springboard and platform.

Giron competed in an era of outstanding Hall of Fame divers, including Greg Louganis (USA), Klaus DiBiasi (ITA), Phil Boggs (USA), Falk Hoffman (GDR), Vladimir Vasin (USR) and Giorgio Cagnotto (ITA). After the 1980 Olympics, Giron was selected as World Male Springboard Diver of the Year for 1981.
He is a gold, silver and two-time bronze medalist at the Pan-American Games (1975 and 1979) and a champion at numerous Central American and Caribbean meets.

After retiring from diving, Giron attended medical school at UCLA, where he received a degree in dental prosthesis. He also attended sports administration courses at the University of Texas in Austin; Sport Schule Institute in Berlin, Germany; and the University LaSalle in Mexico City.

In addition, Giron was also involved in government and later became Mexico City’s Area Director for Consumer Organization, Agricultural and General Services, Head of Transportation and Mexican Social Security. He was President of the Mexican Association of Olympic Medalists and continued in the sport, as a coach and Masters Diver.

Today, Carlo Girón, son of the former medalist, announced the sad news through his social networks, and thanked everyone for their good wishes for his father that have come to the family. He continued…..

“It is with great sorrow, we want to communicate to each and every one of you who were an important part in the life of my dad @DrCGiron, that today he has stopped being among us to move to immortality. Thank you all for your prayers and good wishes,” he wrote.

While the Mexican Olympic Committee (COM) adding supportive sentiments: “The Mexican Olympic family deeply regrets the loss of one of its distinguished members, the 1980 Moscow medalist Carlos Girón.”

In turn, the Secretary of Public Education, Esteban Moctezuma Barragán shared: "We say goodbye to a glory of Mexican sport, Carlos Girón, silver medalist at the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games. My deepest condolences to his family.”

Carlos Giron was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2001.

Monday, January 13, 2020

US Olympic Team Trials Diving

Dear USA Diving Community,
During the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Diving held in June, we will induct our third class into the USA Diving Rings of Honor. The Rings of Honor inducted its inaugural class in 2012, and the second one in 2016.
The Rings of Honor celebrates the outstanding achievements and contributions of its members. The Rings of Honor Committee is requesting your help with submitting nominees for the 2020 class.
Here are the categories and their descriptions:
Lifetime Achievement Award – The ultimate award for individuals who have participated and contributed at the highest level in more than one category. 
Diving Legends  – Awarded for outstanding accomplishments in various world-level competitions.
Distinguished Coaches   Awarded for excellence and special accomplishments in coaching.
Honor Contributors – Special recognition for people who have been very important contributors to the sport. 
Masters – Consistent participation in Masters Nationals events over a significant period of time; participation at the international level (Pan Am and World events); high levels of achievement in Masters events (multiple podium finishes at national/Pan Am/World meets, with more weight given to events with larger numbers of participants); clear evidence of promoting the sport of diving in general (media, involvement with USA diving via donations/serving on committees or as an official or volunteer/coaching) and Masters diving in particular.
Pioneer category – For innovative ideas that significantly enhanced the sport of diving.
You will find the nomination form HERE. If you have someone to nominate, please complete it and send it to Taylor Payne at
If you have any questions, please contact Taylor Payne at
Thank you,
Terry Bassett
CEO - USA Diving 

Participant Overflow, Spectators and Families Hotel Information

The spectator hotel for the the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Diving is the Crowne Plaza Downtown Indianapolis Union Station, located at 123 W. Louisiana St., Indianapolis, IN 46225. The hotel is only 1.5 miles from the IU Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI. The room rate is $179/night.   
The room rate, when booked via USA Diving and our group code, includes: 
· Complimentary access to on-site fitness room
· Complimentary internet access in guest rooms
· Discounted self-parking for $28/night
· Discounted valet parking for $38/night
Reservation cut-off is May 26, 2020.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Dive Towers at ISHOF are No More......

January, 2020, saw the demolition of the original dive towers at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex. These towers were built in 1965 with the original plans for the Hall of Fame pool.  It was with mixed emotions that everyone watched it.

The dive towers at ISHOF have seen some of the greatest divers in the world, including a multitude of Olympic champions.  In 1970, ISHOF hosted the first ever CAN-AM-MEX Meet, welcoming Canada, America and Mexico.  It  eventually became the International Diving Meet, inviting athletes from all over the world.   From then on the best trained divers in the world started coming to Fort Lauderdale each May to attend, what became a favorite meet of everyone.

Olympic gold medalist, Micki King was a regular for many years.  The Italian team with Klaus DiBiasi and Giorgio Cagnotto travelled to Fort Lauderdale for at least a decade.  Cagnotto continued to come to Lauderdale after he became a coach and his daughter became an Olympic diver where she then followed in his footsteps.  Other teams followed: the Canadian team, the Mexican team, the Russians, the Germans, the Swedish and even the Chinese came in the end. They all wanted to come to Fort Lauderdale and ISHOF to compete.  

The meet became so popular that USA Diving and FINA took over the running and organization of the event. It then became known as the FINA Diving Grand Prix.

Greg Louganis started coming to Fort Lauderdale as an age-grouper and has won more meets than we can count off these towers.  

And so with the demolition of these towers, an era has ended.  The towers are gone, and so is the dive well.  It's time to write a new chapter in diving at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex.  Invite new divers, as well as other aquatic athletes, break new records and look to the future and what's to come.

Stay tuned........

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

January 7th Proclaimed as Ron O'Brien Day

Yesterday, January 7th, 2020, was Proclaimed Ron O’Brien Day by the City of Fort Lauderdale City Commission.

Ron O'Brien was the Head Coach of the Fort Lauderdale Diving Team from 190-1996, ISHOF Honoree and an eight-time Olympic coach.

Commissioner Steve Glassman presented O'Brien with the proclamation, Monday evening at the City Commission meeting, making it Ron O'Brien Day.

O'Brien was recently inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, only the fifth Coach to ever be honored.

To read more about ISHOF Honor Coach Ron O'Brien, visit:

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Montenegrin Water Polo Player, Mirko Vicevic to be Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as part of Class of 2020


Mirko Vicevic has won gold at every major event on the water polo world stage; the Olympic Games, the World Championships and the FINA World Cup.

His original club was Primorac of Kotor, Montenegro, where he played from 1982 to 1989. After that, he played for several teams, Jadran, in Split, Croatia, Savona (Italy) Barcelona (Spain) Brixia (Brescia, Italy) and Pro Recco (Italy). Vicevic won the LEN Trophy for the years 2002, 2003 and 2006 with his club Brixia, and was selected as Best Sportsman of the Municipality of Kotor in 1986, 1988 & 1989 and Best Sportsman in Montenegro in 1988.

Meet Vicevic in person and hear his incredible life story at the ISHOF Induction dinner on Saturday, April 25, 2020.   Become an ISHOF Legacy Member and attend the ISHOF Induction dinner for FREE.  Can’t attend the event? Please consider donating to ISHOF, support Vicevic and our other inspirational Honorees.

More about Mirko Vicevic:

After retiring in 1991 Mirko graduated from the School of Water Polo Trifun-Miro Ćirković and began coaching water polo. He received his coaching diploma in 1997. As a coach he won the Italian Junior Championships with the water polo club Savona in 1999. Since 2008, he has been the A-Team Coach of the newly-founded club Vaterpolo Akademija Cattaro, where he is also the team manager, winning the LEN Trophy in the season 2009/2010. Vicevic won the European championship gold medal in 2013, with the National Junior Team of Montenegro.  He has also been the adviser of sport in the municipality of Kotor since December 2013.

About the International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Weekend:

The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Induction Ceremony is shaping up to be a star-studded weekend with ISHOF Honoree and Sullivan Award Winner, Debbie Meyer, acting as emcee and host of the induction with multiple events spread out over two days in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Make your plans now to attend the weekend of April 24-25, 2020!  ISHOF Members can purchase the Weekend Package and Save!  Can’t attend the event? Donate to ISHOF to support our Honorees.

This year’s International Swimming Hall of Fame Honorees include:  

HONOR SWIMMERS:  Brendan Hansen (USA), Michael Klim (AUS), Jon Sieben (AUS), Rebecca Soni (USA), and Daichi Suzuki (JPN); HONOR DIVER: Matthew Mitcham (AUS); HONOR SYNCHRONIZED (ARTISTIC) SWIMMER: Elvira Khasyanova (RUS); HONOR WATER POLO: Mirko Vicevic (YUG); HONOR OPEN WATER SWIMMER: Marilyn Bell (CAN); HONOR COACHES: Ursula Carlile (AUS) and David Marsh (USA); HONOR CONTRIBUTORS: Bob Duenkel* (USA) and Peter Hurzeler (SUI).


In addition to the Class of 2020, two Honorees from the Class of 2019, who were unable to attend their induction last year, will be present to be officially inducted.  Honor Swimmer: Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL) and Honor Diver: Ting Li (CHN).

Thursday, January 2, 2020

U.S. Coach of the Year: Gregg Troy Has Spun Magic in Development of Caeleb Dressel

The selection of United States Coach of the Year is a delicate exercise and is dependent on the lens used for the selection. Should the coach of the most dominant athlete receive the award? Or, should the honor go to the coach who guided the most successful group of high performers? There is no simple answer, and varied opinions are very much accepted.
But with the exploits of Caeleb Dressel from the World Championships, along with the success of the Cali Condors in the inaugural season of the International Swimming League, Swimming World has chosen Gregg Troy for Coach of the Year in 2019. Troy earned the accolade in a tight battle that also featured deep consideration for Ray Looze and Greg Meehan. Yet, when it came time to make the selection, Troy’s guidance of Dressel stood out.
The 69-year-old Troy is no stranger to coaching awards, having amassed his share during a career defined by significant success overseeing the programs of the University of Florida and Gator Swim Club. He has been an NCAA, ASCA and USA Swimming Coach of the Year, and has guided Team USA into Olympic waters. This past year, his efforts were most noteworthy for generating a blueprint that led Dressel to an eight-medal haul at the World Champs, including six gold medals.
The success found by Dressel since he started working under Troy’s direction as a University of Florida freshman is off the charts. Last summer, however, brought the greatest achievements as Dressel won four individual titles at Worlds, the 100 butterfly captured in world-record time. He also became the fastest man in history in textile in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, and Dressel will be among the most-watched athletes at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“He is a great coach,” Dressel has said of Troy. “He works hard, looks for different things to focus on. He brings out the best in his athletes.”
Gregg Troy; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
While Troy is best known for the development of his athletes into better swimmers, some racing at the top level of the sport and contending for Olympic medals, his role goes beyond simply a man designing sets and delivering directions from the deck. Additionally, Troy serves as a confidant for his swimmers and is equally concerned with how his troops grow as individuals. Life goes on beyond the pool.
“The long-lasting effect you have on people you communicate and deal with is really satisfying,” he said. “Helping people be successful at the highest level for them. Teaching people skills through their life and to give back to society is what makes people successful.”
Troy is not just responsible for Dressel’s exploits, but also is in charge of the careers of Great Britain’s Mark Szaranek and Poland’s Jan Switkowski, who boast Olympic hopes for 2020. Of course, he is also known for mentoring Ryan Lochte to vast success on the world stage, with Lochte chasing his fifth Olympic bid next summer.
The recently completed ISL season featured Troy as the head coach of the Cali Condors, who advanced to the grand finale in Las Vegas and were in contention for the team title until late on the second day of the championship competition. While eventual champion Energy Standard and runnerup London Roar had greater talent throughout their rosters, Troy worked his lineups superbly to keep the Condors within striking distance.
Beyond preparing Dressel to manage a heavy schedule in Tokyo, Troy must prepare his biggest charge for the expectations that will be thrust upon his shoulders. Already, Dressel is being mentioned as a contender to win seven or eight medals in Tokyo, his face sure to be splashed on many magazine covers. Due to Dressel’s multi-medal potential, comparisons to Michael Phelps have been made. The pressure will be unique, and Troy is confident that Dressel’s experience from the World Champs will suit him well.
“He’s dealt with the pressure of being the star,” Troy said. “Now, I think, he’s kind of the complete package.”
With Troy having a major influence over that status.

Honorable Mention (Alphabetical Order)

Jack Bauerle

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
The longtime head man at the University of Georgia, Jack Bauerle continues to churn out championship contenders on the global level. A finalist for Coach of the Year at the Golden Goggles, Bauerle served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the World Championships. Six of Bauerle’s athletes, including Chase KaliszHali FlickingerOlivia SmoligaMelanie Margalis and Jay Litherland, earned spots in Gwangju and combined for 10 medals.

Dave Durden

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
Set to guide the United States men’s squad at next year’s Olympic Games, Dave Durden led the University of California-Berkeley to the NCAA men’s team crown, the Golden Bears’ dominant showing ending Texas’ four-year stranglehold on the championship. Durden then coached the USA men at the World Championships, with five of his athletes occupying spots on the roster.

Ray Looze

Coach Ray Looze cheers on his swimmer.
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
Whether overseeing athletes at the collegiate level or competing in international circles, Ray Looze produced a sterling year. His Indiana University squads each captured Big Ten Conference titles, with the men following up with a third-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Looze was also an assistant for Team USA at the World Championships, where his swimmers shined, headlined by Lilly King and her trio of gold medals. As the Olympic year beckons, Looze boasts an impressive roster of hopefuls for the Tokyo Games, including Blake Pieroni and Zach Apple.

Greg Meehan

Greg Meehan; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick
The United States women’s coach for next year’s Olympic Games, Greg Meehan enjoyed a sterling year by first leading Stanford to a third consecutive NCAA women’s team title. He then served as the Team USA women’s coach at the World Championships where his pupil Simone Manuel won gold in the 50 freestyle and 100 freestyle, and where Katie Ledecky, in the face of illness, took gold in the 800 freestyle. Meehan also coached World Champs team members Katie Drabot, who won bronze in the 200 butterfly, and Ella Eastin and Brooke Forde.

Mike Parratto

golden goggles
Photo Courtesy: Brent Rutemiller
Once the coach of the legendary Jenny ThompsonMike Parratto was the man behind the breakout success of Regan Smith at the World Championships. The head coach of the Riptide Swim Team in Minnesota, Parratto guided Smith to a world record and gold medal in the 200-meter backstroke at the World Champs, and then watched his prized pupil lead off the United States’ 400 medley relay in a world record for the 100 backstroke, with the relay also establishing a global standard. For his work, Parratto was named Coach of the Year by the American Swim Coaches Association and at the Golden Goggles Awards.