Envisioned by Tom Shadden and hosted by 5-time Olympic medalist John Naber, an unprecedented celebration honored dozens of Olympics and world champions in swimming, open water swimming, water polo, diving, skiing, and extreme aquatic sports.
“It was mind-boggling how many Olympic medals, world records, and influential events and inspirational races were represented by the several hundreds of people gathered at the Pete Archer Rowing Center,” said Steven Munatones. “In addition to the athletes, many coaches were both honored and in the audience sitting proudly and listening to recollections of the exploits of their athletes.”
It was also interesting to hear the road to the Olympic Games by many of the athletes including Pat McCormick, Maureen O’Toole Purcell, and Susie Atwood. The women were so young in the pre-Title 9 era where so few (or no) college scholarships were available to women in the 20th century. “I don’t know if my coach believed in me, but he [Jim Montrella] said he was and that is all that I needed [to make the 1968 Olympic Swim Team as a 15-year-old].”
“Oh believe me, I believed in you,” shouted Coach Montrella from the audience.
It is that kind of aquatic ambiance that has long been an expectation in the Aquatic Capital of America. A supportive coaching community and an abundance of pools and long shoreline where sailing, rowing, water skiing, paddling, swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming programs are offered for enthusiasts of all ages.
Rob Webb and Shadden [shown on left] explained why Long Beach is the Aquatic Capital of America. “Long Beach is hugged by water.
Located between the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, with the Pacific Ocean to the south, the Port of Long Beach to the west, Alamitos Bay to the east, and Marine Stadium and Colorado Lagoon to the north, water is everywhere. The City also has two large marinas serving the sailing and boating communities.
Long Beach has produced a long list of Olympians, world champions, and world record holders in aquatics ranging from diving, swimming, and water polo indoors to rowing and sailing outdoors.
The City has a temperate year-round climate, ideal offshore sailing waters, protected Marine Stadium and Alamitos Bay competition zones, and a diverse population with active athletes and beachgoers. Long Beach has hosted the United States Olympic Swimming Trials in 1968, 1976 and 2004 and the national open water swimming championships in 2010 [see below] as well as hosted a number of international water polo, diving and synchronized swimming events.”
The honorees, all of whom are comfortable in the open water, include Pete Archer (multi-watersports coach), Ron Crawford (3-time Olympic water polo player), Monte Nitzkowski (3-time Olympic water polo coach), Tim Shaw (Olympic medalist + world record holder), Hans Fassnacht (world record holder in two strokes + Olympic medalist), Klaus Barth (Olympian, coach and top Ironman triathlete), Joan Van Blom (2-time Olympic rowing medalist), John Van Blom (4-time Olympic rowing), Susie Atwood (2-time Olympic medalist and world record holder), Jody Campbell (2-time Olympic water polo medalist), Don Gambril (5-time Olympic swimming coach), H. Lee Kirk (barefoot water skiing world record holder), Maureen O’Toole Purcell (6-time World Water Polo Player of the Year), Tom McKibbon (6-time Olympic rower and coach), and Pat McCormick (4-time Olympic diving champion).
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