Monday, May 31, 2021

Happy Birthday Domenico Fioravanti !!!

Domenico Fioravanti (ITA) 2012 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (100m, 200m breaststroke); 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (100m breaststroke), bronze (50m breaststroke); 1999 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (25m): silver (100m breaststroke); 1997 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 5th (100m breaststroke); 1999 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m breaststroke); 2000 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (100m breaststroke), silver (200m breaststroke).

Domenico Fioravanti was born in Novara, Italy on the 31st of May, 1977. He started to swim competitively at the age of nine. One year later, following in the footsteps of his older brother, Massimiliano, he began training daily.

Although a breaststroke specialist, Domenico won his first international medal in 1996 at the European Short Course Championships in Rostock as a member of Italy’s silver medal 4x50 meter freestyle team. In 1997, he obtained his first career international gold medal, winning the 100 meter breaststroke at the Mediterranean Games in Bari, Italy.

1998 was another year of growth, with Fioravanti winning nine Italian national titles in individual and relay races, and finishing fifth in the 100 meter breaststroke at the FINA World Championships in Perth, Australia. In 1999, his steady rise in world rankings continued with a silver medal in the 100 meter breaststroke at the World Short Course Championships in Hong Kong, and a gold at the European Long Course Championships in Istanbul. A year later in Sydney, Domenico got the biggest wins of his career, winning gold medals in both the 100 meter and 200 meter breaststroke events at the 2000 Olympic Games.

Fioravanti remained among the world’s elite breaststrokers after Sydney, but in preparing for Athens in 2004, he was diagnosed with cardiac hypertrophy. So, as a precaution, he retired from swimming. In 2008, he received the Olympic Legends Fair Play Award and he is currently an ambassador for the Italian Swimming Federation and television commentator for RAI.

During his racing career, Fioravanti won 46 Italian national titles, including relays. At the Sydney Olympic Games, he made history by becoming the first Italian swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.

Happy Birthday Steve Holland !!!

STEVE HOLLAND (AUS) 1989 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1976 bronze (1500m freestyle); WORLD RECORDS: 11 (800m, 1500m freestyle); WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1973 gold (1500m freestyle); Australian records: 5 (400m, 1500m freestyle); COMMONWEALTH GAMES: 1974 gold (1500m freestyle).

Most of the World had to wait until the first World Championships at Belgrade, Yugoslavia in September 1973 to see if the Australian wonder boy was for real.  At age 15, Steve "Toothpick" Holland looked much younger, particularly when lined up beside Olympic medal winners Big John Kinsella, USA, Rick DeMont, USA, and his countryman Brad Cooper.  Less than a year before, all these bigger men had won gold medals at the 1973 Munich Olympics.  Holland, Five feet tall and weighing 9 stones 6 pounds had broken Mike Burton's World and Olympic record by 15 seconds in the Australian Championships the month before but this was his first international competition.

The world waited to see if this wonder kid could do it against the best.  He did, breaking his own world record by six more seconds.  On the way to this amazing swim, Holland also broke the world record for 800 meters and kept swimming after the end to break the mile record.  He had also broken the half mile as well as the 1000 meters.  While the last three distances are not FINA-recognized world records, he nevertheless swam the world's fastest times in five distances. His reason for swimming more than the 1500 meters was not intentional.  FINA had installed a horn instead of the gun and Holland did not hear the "gun lap" signal.  He swam more than 100 yards too far and seemed like he could go forever.  "Swimming World" called it the most supreme exhibition of a "will-to-win" ever seen in swimming.

Steve Holland again broke the world 1500 meter record in Christchurch, New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games with the Queen watching.  Holland's greatest triumph came when he went on to own the 800 meters (half mile) breaking his own record six more times.  He held a total of 11 FINA world records with his high turn over, two beat kick.  His age, his size, his style and his fast rise to prominence made Steve Holland the most exciting swimmer of his brief era.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Happy Birthday Jill Sterkel !!!

JILL STERKEL (USA) Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: 1976 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (4x100m freestyle relay); 1980 OLYMPIC GAMES: (boycotted); 1984 OLYMPIC GAMES: gold (4x100m freestyle relay – preliminary heat); 1988 OLYMPIC GAMES: bronze (50m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay – preliminary heat); THREE WORLD RECORDS: 2 (4x100m freestyle relay), 1 (4x200m freestyle relay); 1978 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (4x100m freestyle relay); 1982 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: silver (4x100m freestyle relay), 4x100m medley relay), bronze (100m freestyle); 1986 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: bronze (water polo); 1983 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS: gold (4x100m freestyle relay); 1975 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: gold (4x100m freestyle relay), silver (100m freestyle); 1979 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: gold (4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay, 100m butterfly), silver (100m freestyle); 1983 PAN AMERICAN GAMES: gold (4x100m freestyle relay); 20 U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 13 individual, 7 relays; 21 NCAA/AIAW NATIONAL: 16 individual, 5 relays.

In 1971, Jill Sterkel appeared in her first US National Championship meet at the age of ten. At age 14, she qualified for the Pan American Games, the same year she made her first appearance in the world rankings, with a 12th in the 100m freestyle. Sterkel strongly kept the momentum going, becoming a member of four U.S. Olympic Teams (1976, 1980, 1984, 1988), the most for any American swimmer in the first 92 years of the modern Olympiad. She won medals at each Olympics in which she competed.

Her first Olympic medal came in 1976 at Montreal when her 4x100m freestyle relay defeated the favored East German team and won the gold medal in the world record time of 3:44.82, with teammates Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli and Shirley Babashoff.  Little did the athletes know at the time, but the competitors from East Germany had been under a planned drug doping program for six years. Their female swimmers won every event except two. When the East German drug scandal was exposed 17 years later, it proved their swimmers performances to be unfair, unbalanced and completely against the rules. They had won 11 of 13 gold medals and many silver and bronze medals.

At the 1980 Moscow Games, Jill’s Olympic aspirations were again dampened by another incident out of her control – U.S. President Carter’s boycott of the U.S. Olympic Team from competing in Moscow. Jill was picked to win three gold medals and to be team captain.

But, she could not compete.

Jill’s second gold medal came as a member of the 1984 Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay team (preliminary heat). When the 50m freestyle became an Olympic event in 1988, she tied with Katrin Merssner (GDR) for the bronze medal with a career best time of  25.71 behind Kristen Otto (GDR) and Yang Wenyi (CHN). This was Jill’s fourth Olympic quadrennial. She also received a second bronze medal for swimming the 4x100m freestyle relay – preliminary heat. Sterkel was elected captain of the U.S. Team for three Olympic Games – 1980, 1984, 1988.

Jill started her swimming career as an age group swimmer with coach Don Garmon (1966-1971). She then moved to El Monte Aquatics Team (1971-1979) in her home state of California where she trained under Don LaMont, competing in her first U.S. Nationals at age 12. By 14, she was competing at the 1975 Pan American Games where she won gold as a member of the 4x100m freestyle relay and took home a silver medal in the 100m freestyle. Sterkel was then coached by Hall of Fame coaches Paul Bergen (1979-1983), Richard Quick (1983-1988) and Mark Schubert (1988-1991) while at the University of Texas, Austin.

Jill won gold medals at the 1978 World Championships (4x100m freestyle relay) and the 1979 Pan American Games (14x100m freestyle and medley relays) where she also won a silver in the 100m freestyle.

Sterkel competed at the 1982 World Championships in Guayaquil, Ecuador, winning silver medals in both relays and a bronze in the 100m freestyle. At the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Jill won the gold on the freestyle relay. All totaled, Jill won 20 U.S. National Championships and 21 NCAA/AIAW National Championships while swimming for the University of Texas Longhorns.

Not only was Jill a great swimmer, she was also a member of the 1986 U.S. National Water Polo Team that won a bronze medal at the Madrid World Championships. From 1986 to 1991, Jill was assistant women’s swim coach at the University of Texas, and head coach from 1992 to present. “I am glad and proud to be able to give girls growing up in the sport some sort of example to follow…,” Jill Sterkel said in a 2001 USA Today interview. One of the first females to break into the USA Swimming coaching hierarchy to coach at the World Championship level, Sterkel is “an American swimming legend,” said Dale Neuburger, USA Swimming President, “and she’s already distinguished herself as one of our country’s foremost coaches.”

Jill Sterkel’s accolades continue to flow. She won nearly every award available in swimming, from Olympic gold to the Broderick Cup U.S. National Female Athlete of the Year and a Texas-record 28 All-America honors. She was named assistant women’s swimming coach for the 1999 Pan American Games in Winnipeg and the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka.

Sterkel has had a profound impact on the Texas women’s swimming program. She placed two swimmers on Olympic teams: Whitney Hedgepath (1996) winning silver medals in the 100m and 200m backstrokes and gold on the 4x100m medley relay – preliminary heat and Erin Phenix (2000) winning gold on the 4x100m freestyle relay – preliminary heat. Sterkel was inducted into the Texas Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor and was the 2000 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year.

Happy Birthday Cathy Carr !!!

CATHY CARR (USA) 1988 Honor Swimmer

FOR THE RECORD: OLYMPIC GAMES: 1972 gold (100m breaststroke; relay); WORLD RECORDS: 2 (100m breaststroke; relay); AAU NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2 (100m breaststroke); AMERICAN RECORDS: 4 (100m, 100yd breaststroke; 2 relays); 1974 Hall of Fame Outstanding College Athletes of America.

Cathy Carr is the first Olympic gold medal swimmer from New Mexico.  Her Olympic victories at the 1972 Munich Games were a surprise to everyone except perhaps for Cathy herself.  Just one year after placing fourth (100 & 200 breast) in the U.S. Outdoor Nationals, Carr won  the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 meter breaststroke but was not taken seriously by the U.S. coaches as a threat to medal against the 60 competitors from 22 countries around the world.

The Europeans were always favored, especially Swimming Hall of Famer Galina Prozumenshikova, the first Russian to win an Olympic swimming gold in Tokyo and a bronze and silver winner in Mexico.  But in the 1972 Olympics, even though Prozumenshikova was definitely favored, Cathy Carr beat her and set a new Olympic record to boot with a time of 1:15 in the prelims.  In the finals two days later, Cathy took off in the center (lane 4) and led all the way, beating Prozumenshikova by two body lengths.  It was as decisive as it was surprising.  She won in world record time 1:13.58 beating her own Olympic record by more than a second and the world record of Hall of Famer Catie Ball by half a second.  As the fastest American, this also qualified Cathy for the medley relay in which she won another gold in world and Olympic record time.

In addition to the two gold medals and the unofficial title of the USA's most pleasant surprise winner, Cathy Carr showed that previous press clippings don't win the Olympics.  Cathy proved in the year after the Olympics that her surprise showing at Munich was no fluke.  She retired to become a wife, mother and elementary school teacher.  Coaching credits for swimmer Cathy Carr are owed to: Jimmy Stevens, Marc Lautman, John Mechem, coach-to-be Rick Klatt and Mike Troy.

On this day in 1910, Italian Water Polo hero, Mario Majoni was born......

MARIO MAJONI  (ITA) 1972 Honor Water Polo Player

FOR THE RECORD:  OLYMPIC GAMES: 1948 gold; EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS: 1947 gold; 118 international water polo games for Italy; Captained Italian national team for 10 years; Member of FINA Technical Water Polo Committee: 1949; Italian National Water Polo Coach: beginning 1950.

Mario Majoni is the first Italian inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.  His long career began in 1924 as his country's youngest "A" water polo player, age fourteen.  That same year he was a 200 meter freestyle swimming finalist in the "Coppa Scarioni" on Lake Como.  Ten years later he made the National team, and for 15 years (1934 through 1948) Majoni played international water polo 118 times, in action with the Italian team.  He captained the national team for 10 years, winning the European Championship in 1947 and the Olympic Championship in 1948 in London.

Majoni is rated on a world class par with Hungarians Nemeth, Halossy, Homonnay, Garmity, the Englishmen Radmilovic and Wilkenson, the Frenchman Padou, the German Rademacher and Americans O'Connor and Hebner as the all-time immortals of water polo.  As with Earl Clark and Erich Rademacher among 1972 International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees, Mario Majoni would have won still more national, world and Olympic honors had not war intervened.

Majoni retired as a player at 38 after his Olympic gold medal to become a member of FINA Technical Committee in 1949.  He soon was appointed the Italian National Water Polo coach (1950), a job he has held through 6 Olympic Games.


His Olympic water polo teams are always in the top 5 in the world and his books and films on the basic principles, the techniques, the rules and the tactics of winning water polo are studied throughout the world.  Mario Majoni has been involved in water polo for more than 50 years.

Happy Birthday Judy McGowan !!!

Judy McGowan (USA) 2009 Honor Contributor/Synchronized Swimming


 Since 1953, Judy has been active as a synchronized swimming competitor, coach, judge and most importantly, administrator nationally and internationally. 

In her younger days of competition in the City of Baltimore she was coached by 1912 British Olympic gold medalist and Hall of Famer Belle Moore Cameron and then Dot Muhly. It all helped to prepare her for the many years of commitment and service she gave to the sport. I

n 1974, she was the U.S. delegate to the First International Conference on Synchronized Swimming in Ottawa and then elected to chair the International Judges Study Group from 1974 to 1984. In 1979, she was editor and primary author of the First International Training Manual for Synchronized Swimming Judges. She organized the Second International Conference on Synchronized Swimming in 1979 in Washington, DC. Six years later in 1984, she became the first woman ever appointed to chair a FINA committee, the Technical Synchronized Swimming Committee (TSSC) on which she served for twelve years, eight as chairman. During her tenure, she innovated and improved judging and scoring procedures, initiated development clinics around the world and developed training materials. In 1988, she edited the first FINA Judging Manual, revising it in 1992. She chaired the FINA – TSSC Ad Hoc Committee on Degrees of Difficulty and authored its report, which established asystematic approach to assigning degrees of difficulty to FINA figures. 

She developed the first video tape series for training international routine judges by writing the script, selecting video clips, designing the format, and doing the video voiceover. She also wrote a teaching manual to accompany the tapes. She drafted the first rules and guidelines for technical routines and organized the first FINA Coaching Symposium for elite synchro coaches in 1992 at Olympia, Greece. 

As an international clinician, she conducted or served 37 international clinics around the world including Argentina, Australia (3), Brazil, Canada (2), China, Columbia (3), Cuba, Dominican Republic (2), Finland, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea (2) Mexico (2), Puerto Rico (2), Russia, Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, USA (7), and Venezuela. 

On the home front, she was the Founding President of U.S. Synchronized Swimming where she incorporated the organization, hired the first executive director and established the national office (1977 – 1984). During this time the USSS National Team Program, National Age Group Championships and Masters programs began; and the concept for the first USSS Coaches Certification Program was developed. 

She became the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee Task Force to investigate the status of Coaches Education in the United States for Pan American and Olympic Sports. All recommendations were subsequently adopted including the establishment of a USOC Coaching Education Program. From 1984 to 1988, she chaired the Coaches Education Committee, organizing the first coaching education seminars for the USOC. She became a member of the USOC Executive Board from 1980 1984 and was appointed by USOC president Bill Simon, as the liaison for the Athletes Advisory Council. 

McGowan served as an international judge at the 1984 and 2000 Olympic Games, serving as Chief Olympic Referee in 1988, 1992 and Competition Manager in 1996. She was a judge at the 1978, 1998, 2005 World Championships; 1979, 1997,  1999 World Cups; 1993, 1997, 2002, 2004 Jr. World Championships and 1979, 1983, 1987, 1999, 2003 Pan American Games. She served as Chief Referee at the 1986 and 1991 World Championships; 1985, 1987, 1989,1991 World Cups and 1989, 1991 Jr. Worlds. She was the competition manager at the 1995 World Cup. She was the U.S. Chef de Mission at the 1982 World Championships.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Australian Butterflier, Jon Sieben to be Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as Part of Class of 2021

Aussie Jon Sieben set the world record with a blistering 1:57.04 in the 200m butterfly, winning the event in Los Angeles, in the major upset of the 1984 Olympic Games.  He surprised everyone and beat Michael Gross of Germany. The record stood for 11 months until Gross regained it in 1985.  Sieben continued swimming through two more Olympic cycles, 1988, Seoul and 1992 Barcelona.

Jon Sieben_1984

Jon Sieben on the podium during the 1984 Olympics Photo Courtesy: Jon Sieben

When his career ended, he walked away with 16 Long Course National Championships, 11 Open National Championships and numerous other championship medals.

Swimming as an NCAA swimmer, he competed for the University of Alabama under ISHOF Honor Coach, Don Gambril, who took him to the NCAA National Championships.  There, he won silver in the 200m butterfly and bronze in the 100-meter butterfly.


Jon Sieben after winning gold in the 200-meter butterfly Photo Courtesy: Jon Sieben

Although swimming competitively for Gambril, Laurie Lawrence was always Sieben’s coach while competing at the Olympic Games, under the Australian flag.

Come and meet Sieben in person and hear his incredible life story at the ISHOF Induction dinner on Saturday, October 9, 2021. Become an ISHOF Legacy Member and attend the ISHOF Induction Dinner for FREE. Can’t attend the event? Please consider donating to ISHOF, support Sieben and our other inspirational Honorees.

More about Jon Sieben:

With Sieben competing in three Olympic Games, it was the first time an Aussie swimmer had done so since Dawn Fraser had participated in three Olympic Games in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

Not only was Sieben an Olympic caliber swimmer, but in 2005 and 2009, he competed for Australia in the Universiade Games in the sport of water polo and in 2009, the team took home gold.

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, and double Olympic gold-medalist and everyone’s favorite Olympic swimming broadcaster, Rowdy Gaines acting as co-emcees and hosts 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 October 8-9, 2021!  ISHOF Members can purchase the Complete Weekend Package (see below) and save! (Get info on membership here.) Can’t attend the event? Donate to ISHOF to support our honorees.

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

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

Get more information about this year’s induction class here and more information about Otylia Jedrzejczak and Li Ting.


The Induction Weekend Schedule

Friday, October 8, 2021

Paragon & ISHOF Awards Night

  • 5:30 pm Cocktails
  • 6:30 pm ISHOF and Paragon Awards

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Honoree Induction Day Luncheon – Meet Rowdy Gaines and go on a behind the scenes tour of the Aquatic Complex construction

  • 12-1:30 pm Luncheon

Official 56th Annual International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner

  • 5:30 pm VIP Reception
  • 6:30 –10:00 pm Induction Ceremony & Dinner

Ticket Information

  • October 8-9th Complete Weekend Package (Includes Paragon/ISHOF Awards Night, Saturday Luncheon, and Induction Ceremony)

ISHOF Members $350

ISHOF Non-Members $425 BEST PRICE!!

  • October 8th Paragon Awards and ISHOF Awards Night (Hors D’oeuvres and Open Bar) 5:30 pm

ISHOF Members $75

ISHOF Non-Members $100

  • October 9th Saturday Luncheon 12:00-1:30 pm

ISHOF Members $35

ISHOF Non-Members $50

  • October 9th Induction Ceremony and Dinner5:30 pm

ISHOF Members $275

ISHOF Non-Members $300

10 Person Table $3,500 and $5,000 (Prime location) options

*See all ticket options here.


Host Hotel: Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa

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

Special ISHOF Guest Rate of $259 per night

Book your group rate for International Swimming Hall of Fame


Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach

440 Seabreeze Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (954) 524-8733

Special ISHOF Guest Rate of $169 per night

Honoree Ceremony October 9, 2021
Start Date: Wednesday, October 7, 2021
End Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2021
Last Day to Book: Friday, September 15, 2021

Book your group rate for Honoree Ceremony October 2021

Questions: contact Meg Keller-Marvin at or 570-594-4367

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Hall of Fame Honoree Jesse Vassallo Joins ISHOF’s One in a Thousand Campaign

1978 World Champ and 1997 Hall of Fame Inductee Jesse Vassallo has joined the One in a Thousand campaign, which is designed to help the Hall of Fame prosper during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I believe in keeping history,” Vassallo said. “To me it is a huge honor to be a part of it and I wouldn’t want that to ever go away. I want it to grow and it’s really nice to see it being rebuilt and recharged.”

Vassallo, who grew up in Puerto Rico and moved to Miami when he was 11, has a rich history with the facility.

“For my big meet, we would drive up here to the Hall of Fame. It was always to come up here. I used to look through the cracks because it seemed like every time we came up, it was closed! We would look through the long windows and read as much as I could. I remember getting the chance to go inside and looking at the wall with all the cartoons and drawings on it. It was very inspiring and I wondered what it would be like to be in there. To me, it was a great surprise when I got inducted. Being part of the boycott and not making the 1980 team…the ultimate goal for everybody is a gold medal, and to not be there I thought (getting in the hall of fame) wasn’t going to happen. I was very happy when I did.”


Jesse Vassallo (far right) at the Hall of Fame Aquatic Complex groundbreaking ceremony. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

Vassallo, who still lives in nearby Pompano Beach, coaching the Pompano Piranhas, still keeps in touch with the Hall of Fame facility updates, and was even a guest of honor for the groundbreaking ceremony in April 2019.

“It’s super exciting. I always try to keep informed with what was happening and for so many years, we didn’t know whether it was going to leave or stay or were they going to tear it apart or rebuild? It was very exciting to see the city committed to rebuild that pool and the rest of it. It’s great to see it’s going to have a second life. South Florida brings a lot of people because of swimming and all the 50m pools get packed in the winter time. I think with the Hall of Fame making some noise, it’s going to bring even more good swimmers.

Join the One in a Thousand Club by helping ISHOF on a monthly or one-time basis.


For larger corporate sponsorships and estate-planning donations, please contact us at

Jesse Vassallo – 1997 Honor Swimmer

He began his swimming career at Club Deportivo de Ponce and became the most successful swimmer ever from the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico.  Given the name Jesus David, dubbed Cheyenne by his mother, Daise, but known throughout the world as Jesse, this young swimmer, at an early age, became the hero to many a younger competitor.  During his six year international career, Jesse Vassallo set three world records in the individual medley, lasting a combined five years.

Because his father wanted better and faster training for Jesse and Jesse’s four brothers, and also to improve upon their English, the family moved from Ponce, Puerto Rico, to Miami, where, at age 11, in 1974, Jesse began swimming with the Hurricane Swim Club. Soon he set his first national record at age 13 in the 200m backstroke. At that point, his father, a successful businessman and professional basketball player, knew his son had what it took to be a champion.  That year became a pivotal year for Jesse and the family as they moved to California to train under the famed Mission Viejo coach, Mark Schubert.

Under Schubert’s cautious guidance, Jesse Vassallo improved enough to compete in his first National Championship meet (1976) and win his first National Championship race (1977) at Kelly Pool in Philadelphia.

In 1978, as a 17 year old “Gold Fish,” Jesse got gold fever at the Berlin World Championships, winning both the 200m and the 400m individual medleys and setting a world record in the 400m individual medley, a record he broke once more and held for four years; all while he was still in high school.

In 1979, Vassallo claimed five more US National Championships and prepared for his first swim in his native Puerto Rico since his family had left seven years previously.  “I was a little nervous about swimming at the Pan American Games in Puerto Rico, a little unsure how the people would like me having gone to the United States to train. But they were great. Once I got there, I knew I wanted to swim super fast for the people and for my family,” Vassallo said. And super fast he swam, winning the 200m IM in world record time (2:03.29) and the 400m IM, and taking the silver in the 200m backstroke. Friends and relatives, all sporting yellow “Vassallo” t-shirts led the crowd in “Viva Vassallo” cheers.

Jesse Vassallo was the Kid of the IM; world record holder in both the 200m and 400m IM, World Championship gold medalist in the 400m IM, and Pan American Games gold medalist in both the 200m and 400m IM. Swimming World magazine selected him as World Swimmer of the Year for 1978 and the European press chose him as one of the world’s top ten athletes, among major sports stars as Muhammad AliBjorn Borg and Mario Andretti.

But hardships fell upon Jesse. He was riding high to compete at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Like many other athletes, his dreams were shattered with the Olympic boycott. His father was struck by a car on the road and never recovered, and during his illustrious career as a student athlete at the University of Miami swimming under Coach Bill Diaz, Jesse seriously damaged his left knee ligaments, requiring surgery and almost two years of recovery, keeping him out of the 1982 Guayaquil World Championships. “You don’t know what you’ve got until you don’t have it anymore.  Now I want it back,” said Jesse.

Propelled by his passion for sports he inherited from his father, and the relentless spirit of a true champion, his comeback in 1984 included another national title in the 200m backstroke and another spot on the US Olympic Team where he managed a fourth place in the 400m IM race at Los Angeles.

The recovery time before the Olympics was not quite long enough to fully heal and prepare for international competition.

After 14 years, following the 1984 Games, Jesse Vassallo announced his retirement from competitive swimming. Since then, he has conducted swimming clinics in the US, Puerto Rico and Central and South America and currently coaches the swim team in his hometown. He and his brothers have established a successful manufacturing operation. Jesse lives with his wife Bethsabee and their three children Jess, Victor and Alejandro, in Puerto Rico.


The International Swimming Hall of Fame wants to know if you are one in a thousand?  We think you are! Show how special you are and become a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame’s “One In A Thousand” Club.  Help keep the International Swimming Hall of Fame moving forward toward a new vision and museum by joining now!

During these unprecedented times, the ISHOF Board is calling on every member in the aquatic community to make a small monthly commitment of support to show how special you are and how special the International Swimming Hall of Fame is to everyone.

Our goal is simple. If we get 1,000 people to simply commit $10, $25 or $50 per month, we will generate enough revenue to go beyond this Covid-19 Pandemic Crisis.” – Bill Kent – Chairman of the ISHOF Board

Those that believe in our vision, mission, and goals can join us in taking ISHOF into the future and be a part of aquatic history.”  – Brent Rutemiller – CEO and President of ISHOF

Since 1965, ISHOF has been the global focal point for recording and sharing the history of aquatics, promoting swimming as an essential life-skill, and developing educational programs and events related to water sports. ISHOF’s vision for the future is to build a new museum and expand its reach by offering its museum artifacts digitally through a redesigned website.

The ISHOF Board of Directors is calling on all members of the aquatics community to make a small monthly commitment to show their dedication to aquatics and how special the International Swimming Hall of Fame is to everyone.

Two years ago today, the ISHOF Aquatic Center construction process began!

May 25, 2019......the renovation is real, the pools are empty, and as long time ISHOF friend, Jackie Gleason used to say "And away we go" !!!!!

What a difference two years makes........

MARCH 2021

MAY 2021

May 2021

Always a special thanks to Laura Voet for her pictorial history of the construction for the last two years.  Without her, ISHOF and the City of Fort Lauderdale would never have a such a wonderful detailed pictorial history of this construction process.  Thank you Laura for all you do, from all of us at ISHOF.....Buck is smiling down and thanking you too, saying "That's my Ak-O-Mak girl!

                                                March 2021