Friday, December 18, 2020

Happy Birthday Igor Milanovic, ISHOF 2006 Honor Water Polo Player!

Igor Milanovic 2006 Honor Water Polo Player


Yugoslavia won its first water polo Olympic gold medal in 1968, breaking Hungary’s (and to a lesser degree, Italy’s) Olympic water polo dynasty. Hall of Fame players, Mirko Sandic, Zdravko Korvacic and Zoran Jankovic all helped give special rise to Yugoslavia’s water polo success. Although Yugoslavia won the silver medal 12 years later in 1980, it was in 1984 and 1988 that they won back-to-back gold medals in Olympic competition, largely due to the driving ability of the great Igor Milanovic. The Partizan Club was the country’s leading water polo team and produced most of the Yugoslavian Olympic players, including 6’10” Milanovic.

Igor joined the Partizan Club Team at age ten in 1975 and under the coaching of Nicola Stamenic and Vlaho Orlic; he soon became a skillful and inspirational player. At age 18, legendary coach Ratko Rudic promoted him from the junior team to the national team just in time for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where he was instrumental in his team winning the gold medal. Four years later at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, he once again steered his team to gold. At the height of his career, the Balkan War prevented his team from competing during the years between 1992 to 1995, thus forfeiting the 1992 Olympics.

Throughout his career, he also competed for Mladost, Croatia; Roma, Italy; and Katalugnia, Spain, the latter two in the Professional League. His career includes over 300 international competitions. He has scored over 450 goals

Each of his coaches place him in high regard with Coach Rudic stating that he is the only player who could play in every position on the team.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

On this day in 1917, ISHOF Honor Swimmer, Ralph Flanagan was born....

RALPH FLANAGAN (USA) 1978 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1936 silver (4x200m freestyle relay); WORLD RECORDS: 2; AMERICAN RECORDS: 26; NATIONAL AAU Titles: 20 Held all American freestyle records from 220 yards to a Mile.

In his days, which were the 1930's plus a few years on each end, no American won so many National AAU titles as Ralph Flanagan who came out of the Miami Biltmore Hotel pool to challenge the world and in the process set all the American Freestyle Records from the 220 to the Mile.  Ralph has stayed in swimming as a lifelong Red Cross professional, most recently the Director of Safety Programs in Los Angeles.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Former ISHOF CEO, Bruce Wigo, inducted into USA Water Polo's Class of 2020

Last night, after a four month delay due to COVID-19, USA Water Polo feted its 2020 Hall of Fame class of honorees. It was worth the wait as new inductees Gavin ArroyoKelly RulonGary RobinettElsie Windes and Bruce Wigo, along with previous Hall of Fame honorees, were recognized in an online ceremony streamed on YouTube and Facebook.

[USA Water Polo 2020 Hall of Fame Presentation]

usawpDespite the virtual format—for the first time in 36 years the Hall of Fame ceremony was  exclusively online—the seamless presentation represents one of few recent polo-related events that celebrate the sport in this country. The coronavirus has severely curtailed play throughout the country, and a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in California has again shutdown any polo competition in the home base of the sport in America.

Many of the inductees as well as their presenters acknowledged the changed landscape for their sport and country. In opening the festivities, Greg Mescall, USAWP’s Director of Communications, contrasted this year’s event with those of the past, while John Tanner, Stanford’s women’s coach and a 2019 honoree, made reference to last year’s raucous celebration—then emphasized that this year’s format was a “leveling” in that all around the country will participate equally.

Arroyo, being honored for his three decades of national team participation, first as a player on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic squads and in his current roles as  top assistant to national team coach Dejan Udovicic and head of the organization’s Olympic Development Program (ODP), mentioned in his induction speech finding joy in tough times.

USAWP_HOF_2020A four-time national champion playing for Adam Krikorian at UCLA (2003-07), which included being selected the the 2007 Cutino Award as the nation’s best female collegiate polo athlete, Rulon’s story perhaps underscores the type of resilience needed in these challenging times. After representing the U.S. in the 2004 Athens Olympics—where the Americans captured bronze—Guy Baker, then the U.S. women’s coach, chose not to include Rulon on the 2008 roster. In one of the more memorable upsets in the history of the women’s program, Team USA dropped an 9-8 decision to the Netherlands in the gold medal match at Beijing’s Ying Tung Natatorium—surprising because Baker’s squad had decimated the Dutch in pre-Olympic scrimmages.

According to Doug Peabody, Rulon’s age group coach in San Diego, when Krikorian took over leadership of the women’s program in 2009, one of his first calls was to his former UCLA star, inviting her back to the team. To the benefit of all, Rulon accepted; the U.S. proceeded to capture its first-ever Olympic gold in water polo at the 2012 London Olympics, as Rulon chipped in four goals.

Recognized by peers Bret BernardTom Hermstad and Steve Rotsart as “the best American referee to never officiate an Olympics,” Robinett’s story reflects the continued excellence of officiating in the U.S., a thankless task that the Hall of Fame has wisely acknowledged, including in its ranks William FradyAndy TakataTerry Sayring, Bernard and Hermstad among others.

In his acceptance speech, the now-Hall of Fame referee cited the some of the best polo minds America has produced—Bill BarnettKen LindgrenTed Newland and Monte Nitzkowski—who he wisely solicited to hone his craft.

[Passages: Bill Barnett, Former Olympic Men’s Water Polo Coach, Passes Away at 76]

Elsie Windes, the first-ever water polo Olympian from Oregon, was a teammate of Rulon’s on the 2012 Olympic team after a stellar career at Cal-Berkeley (2004-07), resulting in a 2018 induction into the California Hall of Fame. She also won silver as a member of the 2008 Olympic squad. Refreshingly, Windes’ parents Betty and Doug in their comments described bemusement at their daughter’s polo success—along with great pride in her selection to the highest honor for the sport.


Bruce Wigo and Brent Rutemiller at ISHOF; Photo Courtesy: J.M. Streiner

Closing out the ceremony, Wolf Wigo—a 2011 inductee as three-time Olympian and two-time NCAA winner at Stanford—welcomed his father Bruce to Hall of Fame membership.

One of the most influential polo administrators in the country, for 13 years (1991-2004) the elder Wigo was the executive director of US Water Polo, steering the organization through rocky financial times while scoring specific successes, including a push to include women’s polo as an Olympic sport—achieved at the 2000 Sydney Games—and luring Ratko Rudic, arguably the most successful coach in the sport’s history, to lead the American men at the 2004 Athens Games.

[Swimming World Presents “Lessons with the Legends: Water Polo Coach Ratko Rudic”]

Dan Sharadin, who like Wigo has had tremendous impact on the sport in this country, recounted how his former boss championed women’s polo at the collegiate level, helping to establish the NCAA as arguably the best women’s competition in the world. It regularly draws top international players to ply their craft as student athletes at American institutions.

Befitting both the moment and his stature as a statesman for the sport, in closing Wigo cited the many individuals who helped him in his journey to sustain the sport in America, including the recently deceased Andy Burke and Sayring as well as  Barnett, Pete CutinoDennis FosdickBob HelmickBob HornBarbara KalbusSteve Heaton, Newland and Nitzkowski, USAWP Hall of Fame members who have all passed away.

[Passages: Andy Burke, Devoted US Water Polo Administrator, 91]

It was an apt close to a moment of celebration for a sport that—like most everything in the U.S.—has suffered greatly during the pandemic, and a reminder that better times are ahead.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Happy Birthday 1997 Honor Swimmer: Mike Barrowman !

 MIKE BARROWMAN (USA) 1997 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD:  1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: 4th (200m breaststroke); 1992 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (200m breaststroke); 1989, 1990 World Swimmer of the Year; WORLD RECORDS (7): 200m breaststroke; 1991 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (200m breaststroke); 1987 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: silver (200m breaststroke); US NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS (6): 2 short course (200yd), 4 long course (200m); NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (3)

During the 20 year period between the 1972 Munich Olympics and the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the world record was held by only five swimmers - Hall of Famers John Hencken (USA), David Wilkie (GBR) and Victor Davis (CAN) among them.

Nick Gillingham (GBR) held the record for two days in 1990 sandwiched between USA's Mike Barrowman. Barrowman joins 1940s swimmer Joe Verdeur (USA) in breaking the 200m breaststroke world record, a record number of six times. Between 1988 and 1992, Barrowman dominated the 200m breaststroke as no other swimmer did, winning 15 of 16 major national and international competitions.

His first world record came after five years and one day in the same pool, same lane when Davis had set the mark of 2:13.34 at the 1984 Olympic Games.  Until his retirement after the 1992 Olympics, that mark was to fall an additional five times by another 23 seconds, by Mike.

To Barrowman, success came all of a sudden, but not without a considerable amount of hard work and training.  Leading up to the 1988 Olympic Trials, he was ranked 64th in the world and no one had heard of Mike Barrowman.  To his astonishment, he dropped an incredible seven and one-half seconds, from 2:21.39 to 2:13.74, to make the US Olympic Team and travel to Seoul.  But it was while at Seoul, after finishing a disappointing fourth place that he set his sites for the greatest achievements yet to come that made swimming history. When they played the national anthem of Hungary for Seoul's winner Jozef Szabo, Mike was under the bleachers in the practice pool - all alone. He had wanted the gold medal.  The memory of not getting it was the catalyst that drove him to higher achievements during the next four years.

Barrowman began his first swimming lessons at five months old, from his grandmother, a Red Cross instructor.  By eighteen months, he could jump off the diving board and dog paddle to the side, and at four years he could swim freestyle and backstroke.  Through high school, he swam for the Rockville, Maryland-Montgomery Swim Club and Churchill High School.  But it was in 1986 that he met the Hungarian-born coach Jozsef Nagy and moved with him to Curl-Burke Swim Club and then stardom.  The Hungarian-speaking Nagy's first words to Barrowman were "breaststroke strong."

Nagy developed the "wave-action technique" of the breaststroke, and Barrowman became the showman of the stroke.  Through the technical use of physics and the practical use of "borrowing" the same head and shoulder characteristics of a cheetah running, Barrowman turned this stroke into the fastest in the world.  On land, he re-popularized the use of medicine balls, taken from the 1950s, to increase quickness, particularly in the recovery phase of the stroke. Dryland work, but not weight training, was a very important part of his total training.  His secret to success was none other than "good ole hard work."

It was the desirable balance of his University of Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek, and Hungarian-born Nagy that helped Mike perform so well.  He not only wanted to succeed for himself, but more so for his coaches and family.  Under Urbanchek's guidance, Barrowman earned three NCAA breaststroke championships and was selected the NCAA 1990 Swimmer of the Year.  Urbanchek describes Barrowman as being "very meticulous.  He can describe exactly what he is doing in his stroke."

Under Nagy's guidance, Barrowman perfected his stroke.  His style of coaching, Mike was to criticize. "Nothing is ever good enough.  Everything I do, 100 people have done better, girls can do better.  Some people couldn't handle it, but it works for me," says Barrowman.

Barrowman became a model of concentration, a study in intensity.  He won six US National Championships and won the gold medal at the 1991 Perth World Championships by defeating the same two swimmers as he did in the next year's Olympic Games, Norbet Rozsa (HUN) and Nick Gillingham (GBR). At these Games, this 5'11", 163 lb. swimmer born in Paraguay, lived his dream, the Olympic gold medal.  In the process, he set six world records and was voted World Swimmer of the Year in both 1989 and 1990.  He was also selected as a finalist in 1990, 1991 and 1993 for the prestigious AAU Sullivan Award.

After his retirement from swimming, Mike began kayaking, another water event which uses the same muscles as swimming.  He finished 15th at the 1996 US Olympic Trials.

He works on sports cars, writes novels, goes to the opera and conducts clinics throughout the world.  Kids love him, because he is a champion inside.

On this day in 1918, Honor Contributor, Sebastian Salinas-Abril was born


FOR THE RECORD: FINA: Vice President (1972-76), Bureau Member (1968-80), Chairman of Technical Swimming Committee (1981-88); ASUA: Secretary/Treasurer (1971-75), Executive Committee (1963-79), Honorary Life Member (since 1980); South American Swimming Confederation: President (1966-72), Vice President (1982-86), Honorary Life President (since 1987); Peruvian Swimming Federation: President (1959-60, 1963-64), Honorary Life President (since 1979); “Orden de los Caballeros de la Natacion Sudamericana”: President (1987-present), Member (1968-present); Awarded IOC’s “Silver Collar of the Olympic Order” (1996).

Sebastian Salinas Abril gave many long years of meaningful service as an amateur to swimming. Over these years he has made great advancements for the aquatic disciplines throughout South and Central America and the world. He was a hard working and dedicated man whose only ambition was to further swimming.

Born in Lima, Peru, in 1918, Salinas’ involvement in swimming goes back to 1941 when he became a delegate of Lima’s Swimming Association and his swimming club “Club Universitario de Natacion”. Within 11 years, he was chairman. Within that year, he began a 50 year term as a swimming official in regional and international swimming competitions.

Salinas received his formal education as an agricultural engineer attending Louisiana State University (1937-1939) and graduating from the University of Arizona (1945). But his interests laid in swimming and for the next 55 years, he served in varied capacities in Lima and Peru Swimming Federation’s, South American Swimming Confederation (CONSANAT), The Amateur Swimming Union of the Americas (ASUA) and Federation Internationale de Natacion Amateur (FINA).

On the national level, he has been a two-term President, Honorary Secretary, and Life Honorary President of the Peruvian Swimming Federation (1949-1999). He has served in leadership positions of the Peruvian Sports Institute, National Olympic Committee, Panathlon Club Lima and National Sports Patronage. In 1987, he was elected Honorary Life President of CONSANAT having served on this body since 1966.

His tenure with ASUA began in 1951 as Chairman of the Records Committee. He has served as Secretary, Treasurer, and since 1975, Executive Committee Member.

On the world level, he served for 20 years with FINA as Bureau Director (1968-1980), Vice President (1972-1976) and Technical Swimming Committee Chairman (1980-1988). As a meet official, he has been either chief timekeeper or starter at 3 South American Swimming Championships (1952, 1954, 1956) 3 Pan American Games (1951, 1963, 1967) and the 1972 Olympic Games and 1973 World Championships. Because of his knowledge of the rules, he served as meet referee at 4 Olympic Games (1976-1988), 4 World Championships (1975-1986), 3 Pan American Games (1971-1979), 5 South American Seniors Swimming Championships (1968-1990), as well as numerous South American Junior Swimming Championships.

From 1985 to 1991, Sebastian presented over 10 lectures (mostly for FINA) throughout the Americas and Spain for swimming officials. Since 1947, he has served as a delegate at over 91 International Congress Meetings. He was the catalyst in preparing FINA’s first complete handbook containing a chronological listing of world records, published in 1976.

His distinctions received include the Order of Merit for Distinguished Services presented in the Commander Grade by the Government of Peru (1965), Silver Plate from ASUA for achievement orated to the Latin American Trophy Cabeza de Palenque (1976), The Laurels of Sports – Great Cross Peru’s highest sports condecoration presented by the Peruvian National Sports Council, and the Silver Collar of the Olympic Order presented by the International Olympic Committee.

Salinas is a man of great stature who never lost sight that athletics are for the athletes. Like at the 1975 World Championships in Ecuador, his efforts have gone a long way to benefit swimming both short term and long term. The 1987 FINA records cite him for “special recognition”.

His honest and disciplined approach to sport has rendered more than 55 years of a positive, intensive and fruitful campaign in the international field of aquatics and sport.

Abril passed away in 1999.

Happy Belated Birthday to the Great Hobie Billingsley, who turned 94 on December 2nd!!!

HOBIE BILLINGSLEY  (USA) 1983 Honor Coach/Diver

FOR THE RECORD:  1968 U.S. Olympic Women's Diving Coach; 1972 U.S. Olympic Men's Diving Coach; 1976 Austrian Olympic Diving Coach; 1980 Austrian and Danish Olympic Diving Coach; 1959 U.S. Pan American Men's Diving Coach; 1945 NCAA Champion (1m, 3m springboard); As Indiana University's diving coach his divers captured 16 NCAA, 27 Big Ten and 64 National AAU diving titles; They also won 4 Pan American, 3 World and 2 Olympic gold medals along with 80 National titles between 1959 and 1982; 1973 recipient of the "Mike Malone Award" and 1964 "Fred Cady Award"; founded the American (1971) and the World (1968) Diving Coaches Associations.

Hobie Billingsley was voted the "U.S. Diving Coach of the Year" seven consecutive times between 1964-1970.  He was also the first "NCAA Coach of the Year", first presented in 1982.  A four-time Olympic Coach representing three different countries, his Olympic success was exceeded only by his national success with his divers.  Coaching in the premier diving nation of the world, Billingsley has won more individual diving titles as coach than any other person except his own mentor, the late Mike Peppe of Ohio State.  

Hobie won both the low & high NCAA springboard titles as a freshman at Ohio State before entering the Army Air Corps in 1945.  With his best friend from college, the late Bruce Harlan, and later with Dick Kimball, he toured 15 summers, establishing himself as an all-time great comedy diver with water shows.

However, it was as a coach, the second diving coach ever hired in college ranks, that Hobie made his greatest mark.  Among his Olympians, Rick Gilbert, his first champion and former head coach at Cornell; Cynthia Potter who holds the record for National titles at 28; Jim Henry with 13 National titles; Leslie Bush, holder of every major diving title; and Ken Sitzberger, 11 time National champion.  

In the 1968 NCAA Championships, Hobie's divers scored 96 unprecedented points with five divers making the finals on both the 1-meter and 3-meter boards.  He is the producer of the prize-winning documentary, "Hobie's Heroes".  Hobie's greatest pride is in the fact that there are more diving coaches in the high school and college ranks in the U.S. that have graduated from Indiana University under his tutelage than from any other university.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Happy Birthday Laura Val !!


                               Laura Val (USA) 2004 Honor Swimmer

INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS: World Points – 2042, Pre-1986 Points – 0, Total Points – 2042; Since 1984, she has competed in four age groups (35-39 thru 50-54); 97 FINA MASTERS WORLD RECORDS;

Never during the 30-year history of Masters Swimming has a female been more dominant

in her age group in almost every event than Laura Val. Her Masters world records range from 50m sprints to 1500m distance races. She dominates backstroke, butterfly and individual medley events also.

From a very young age she loved being in and around the water. At age 10-1/2, she was into competitive swimming at the Mountain View (CA) Dolphins team coached by Tom Bosmans. By age 12, she was a Junior Olympic National Champion. Within two more years, she placed in Swimming World's "Five Best Age Group Times" and in the 15-17 age group she set a national record (200y freestyle – 2:03.4). At age 18, she transferred to Hall of Fame Coach Nort Thornton's Foothill Aquatic Club where she made great strides in a more competitive atmosphere.Within a year, she was ranked 11th in the world in the 200m butterfly at 2:29.4 and 20th in the 100m butterfly. That same year (1970), she won a gold medal as amember of the U.S. 4x100m medley relay, competing at the World Student Games in Turin, Italy.

Then, her swimming came to an end. No women's college scholarships meant retirement for many girls at that time. Laura enrolled at San Diego State University to earn a Nursing Degree and graduated Cum Laude (1972). She became a registered nurse for over 20 years,mostly at the intensive care unit at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City (CA). In 1992, she was named one of the Ten Outstanding Nurses in the State of California by Nurseweek Magazine. Since 1997, she has been the Human Resources Director, first at Automated Power Exchange and presently at the Silicon Valley-based Berkshire Hathaway Company with 600 employees.

In 1984, she joined the Los Altos Masters just to get back in the water and do some fitness training without any competitive ambitions. However, just a year-and-a-half later,when her club hosted the U.S.Masters National Championships, she competed and won six races, breaking six national records. Breaking records has been a trend for Laura ever since.

For her five years in the 35-39 age group, Dave Knochenhauer and Bill Olliver were her coaches. Since age 40, John Bitter at Santa Clara has been her swimming guide, although she is affiliated with the Tamalpais Swim Club. She loves to train, swimming 5,000 yards or meters five days a week. She has to force herself to take two days of rest. Her times at age 35 were faster than her times at age 18. Phenomenally, every year she competes, her times get faster. By the time she reached age 50, she was still swimming faster than her own 45-49 age group records. She is the only Masters swimmer to hold world records in three different age groups at the same time.

Currently in the 50-54 age group, Laura owns 22 of the 35 long and short course world records. She has every freestyle record from 50m to 800m. She is the only woman over age 40 ever to break a minute in the 100y fly or two minutes in the 200y free.

Val does all this while she and her husband Gregory raise two daughters, Jodi and Jamie. She does not lift weights, crosstrain, monitor her diet or do stretching exercises. Swimming is only one part of her very busy life.Her strength comes from her love of the sport. She enjoys every minute of it.

To date, Laura holds 49 long course Masters world records and 48 short course Masters world records, a total of 97 Masters world records. In 2002, Swimming World named her Masters Swimmer of the Year. She has been a member of both the USMS Sports Medicine and Research Committee and Champion Committee and is active in her local Pacific Masters Swim Association. She has been named a USMS All Star 14 times (1987, 1989-2002).

At swimming meets Laura is always the "rabbit to catch." At swim practice she has to be talked into leading off the set first. In her heart, she just loves being in the sport for its fitness benefits and swimming meet fun; and of course, the camaraderie. To Laura, all the world records and standings are a byproduct of her time spent in the water.

It's Giving Tuesday !! Please consider ISHOF in your Giving....