Breaststroke Legend Dr. Chet Jastremski Passes Away At 73

  25 Gisselle Kohoyda | May 03rd, 2014 | Industry, Lifestyle, News

With causes still unknown to the general public, including the SwimSwam staff, Polish American breaststroker and Indiana University graduate Chet Jastremski passed away today at the age of 73. As a fellow breaststroker, my heart hurts to hear this news.

Born in raised in Toledo, Ohio, Dr. Jastremski inherited and embraced his Polish American heritage from his father as he claimed to receive a great amount of support over seas even though never visiting or never having any association with the country during competition. He was officially inducted into the National Polish-American Hall of Fame in 2007.

He attended IU during the Doc Cousilman era and collaborated with him to revolutionize the breaststroke kick, changing from a wide frog style kick to the small whip kick commonly used today. In 1962, Jastremski premiered on the cover of Sports Illustrated as the World’s Greatest Swimmer. He graduated from Indiana with a medical degree in 1968 and set 12 world records and 21 American records, then served as team doctor on the 1976 Olympic Team in Montreal, Canada.

Though the list of accomplishments of Chet is long, his greatest swimming accomplishments include his inductions into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1997 and 2007 Polish-American Hall of Fame induction, his gold medal at the 1963 Pan American Games in São Paulo, Brazil in the 200 breaststroke (2:35.4), and his bronze medal at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in the 200 breaststroke (2:29.6). He was also the first swimmer to break a minute in the 100 breaststroke.

 

Comments

  1. Come on says:
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    His famous nickname…. “Chet the Jet”. Old Schoolers know that….

  2. Come on says:
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    Oh…. Coach Shoulberg (Germantown) swam against him once in high school.

  3. piponya says:
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    1 minute in the early sixties ???? Wasn’t it rather 1:10 ?

    • Lucy says:
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      Think yards for the 1 minute comment. I saw him set a world record at the 1961 Men’s LC Nat’ls at the L. A. Swim Stadium (next to the Coliseum, built for the 1932 Olympics)…1:07.5.

      • Duncan says:
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        A sense of his dominance in ’61 is that behind his 1:07.5, 2nd was 1:11+, which was the world record just 7 weeks earlier, during which period Chet broke the WR 6 times to get down to the 1:07.5 which lasted nearly 3 years as the WR in that era of rapidly dropping records. It’s like starting in July at :58.0 and ending up at :54+. Per Wikipedia world record progressions:

        1:11.4 Leonid Kolesnikov Soviet Union May 2, 1961 Moscow, Soviet Union
        1:11.1 Chet Jastremski United States July 2, 1961 Chicago, United States
        1:10.8 Gunter Tittes East Germany July 5, 1961 East Berlin, East Germany
        1:10.7 Chet Jastremski United States July 28, 1961 Tokyo, Japan
        1:10.0 Chet Jastremski United States July 30, 1961 Tokyo, Japan
        1:09.5 Chet Jastremski United States August 3, 1961 Osaka, Japan
        1:07.8 Chet Jastremski United States August 20, 1961 Los Angeles, United States
        1:07.5 Chet Jastremski United States August 20, 1961 Los Angeles, United States
        1:07.4 Georgy Prokopenko Soviet Union March 26, 1964 Baku, Soviet Union

        Wow.

        And as you can tell from other offerings here, and I can affirm from personal experience, he was a gentle supportive spirit to those who came into his path in various ways.

      • MDS says:
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        Anybody ever have a better season in a single event than Chet had across the 7 weeks from early July through 8-20 of 1961, as described below through the world record progression in Wikipedia? He broke the WR 6 times, dropping the record 3.9 seconds himself (1:11.4 when he started, 1:07.5 when he finished), with some serious globe trotting included — Chicago, Tokyo, Osaka, Los Angeles — that can’t have been that helpful to his training and competition preparation. His 8-20-61 mark from finals lasted as WR for nearly 3 years.

        1:11.4 Leonid Kolesnikov Soviet Union May 2, 1961 Moscow, Soviet Union
        1:11.1 Chet Jastremski United States July 2, 1961 Chicago, United States
        1:10.8 Gunter Tittes East Germany July 5, 1961 East Berlin, East Germany
        1:10.7 Chet Jastremski United States July 28, 1961 Tokyo, Japan
        1:10.0 Chet Jastremski United States July 30, 1961 Tokyo, Japan
        1:09.5 Chet Jastremski United States August 3, 1961 Osaka, Japan
        1:07.8 Chet Jastremski United States August 20, 1961 Los Angeles, United States
        1:07.5 Chet Jastremski United States August 20, 1961 Los Angeles, United States
        1:07.4 Georgy Prokopenko Soviet Union March 26, 1964 Baku, Soviet Union

        And after all this transcendent excellence, he had a giant and gentle spirit, which I personally experienced and still treasure; he shared his heart with generations of those who came across his path thereafter. It was an honor to know him, even if for a short period long ago.

  4. IUSWIM says:
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    Great man. Got to know when he was the ladies coach at Indiana in the 80′s. Super nice guy. Photographic memory, great since of humor. All thinking of you!

  5. Kim Holmes O'Shea says:
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    Chet was our coach for my senior year at IU. Great man, fun coach, phenomenal sense of humor. Heaven has another of the good guys!!!

  6. Caroline Teskey says:
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    We have all lost a great man! Chet was exactly the coach I needed at the time I needed him, both in and out of the pool! I loved and respected his enthusiasm and unwavering support, even when it meant allowing me to fail …. I’m heartbroken that I wasn’t able to contact him when I was back at IU in March…. I so wanted to thank him again for his impact on my life both as a coach on the pool deck and personally, HUGE condolences to the entire Jastremski family!

  7. Don Watson says:
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    Chet was not only a world class swimmer but he had an outgoing personality which he shared with many of us in the area of swimming. My condolences to his family and the IU community.

  8. Kate Macdonald Smith says:
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    Chet the jet was an amazing father, coach and inspirational leader in many ways. On the deck, off the deck. He was a brilliant person, doctor and man.
    Loved his family and is family. He was always there personally and professionally when we swam for him at IU.

    My deepest condolences go out to the immediate and swimming family. He will be greatly missed.

    Kate Macdonald Smith

  9. Cynthia Potter says:
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    Chet was one of the finest individuals ever. When we needed medical advice or attention, he was always available to all IU divers. He was world class in every way.

  10. Kathi Murphy Heapy says:
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    I have such fond memories of Chet. I learned so much about coaching from Chet and thoroughly enjoyed watching him work. He entrusted me with many tasks as a manager to help the team and made me feel important and welcome with the team. I will always be grateful to him for that. He was a terrific man. Godspeed, Chet the Jet.

  11. Peder Dahlberg says:
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    I was 11 when I first saw Chet compete, needless to say he was a hero to me. Eleven years later we trained together in the “breaststroker’s lane” when Chet extended his career by making a comeback bid in 1972. That was special for me. He was a great guy and we had a lot fun together.

  12. andrew strenk says:
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    He was a backbone of the 1968 Olympic team in Mexico CIty.

  13. Mike Barrowman says:
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    Sad sad news. He was a true pioneer for Breaststroke. I remember asking Doc about “Chet the Jet”, and the great stories he told. He will be missed.

  14. Mike in Dallas says:
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    Some of us are old enough to remember that swim in Tokyo — the colour may have been bronze, but the EXCITEMENT was gold.

    R.I.P.

  15. Lary Schulhof says:
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    As teammate from 1958 to 1964 at the Indianapolis Athletic Club, at I.U., on the U.S. Teams to Europe and Japan in 1962 and to Tokyo in 1964, I remember Chet the Jet as not only as one of the greatest swimmers in the world but as a terrific individual and a warm and loyal friend. A part of Chet lives in every one of us making each a better person.

  16. Tate Holt says:
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    I remember him as the IU swim team physician. Marge was the team mom and Chet was the team’s “big-brother”…

  17. Dave Marker says:
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    Being a Toledo Ohio swimmer, all people talked about was Chet the Jet. It was a great honor to finally meet Chet when I went to swim for Doc in1968. He treated me as an equal even though I was10 years younger than him. He was a great PERSON!

  18. Laura Voet says:
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    It was truly an honor to swim for Chet (1986-1990) at Indiana University and learn how to swim the breaststroke. He was very detailed with his constructive criticism. In addition to countless hours working on perfecting the underwater pull, Chet would watch our stroke technique via the underwater window at Royer Pool and from inside the pool! Part of his coaching including watching video footage of Mike Barrowman’s breaststroke. Then, at 1988 Big Ten Championship, after countless hours of training and tweaking, Michigan coach Jim Richardson complimented us both on how “beautiful” my breaststroke was. I’ll never forget that moment and the resulting appreciative smile from Chet, that meant at lot to him I think as a coach, and me.

    Many thanks to Chet for a great collegiate experience. I have fond memories of Chet and his family, IU and its rich swimming tradition – I’m both honored and proud to have been part of it.

    My deepest condolences to his familly.

    Laura Hatfield Voet

  19. Tom Stock says:
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    As a teammate of Chet’s at Indiana University, it was perfectly clear that Chet was the ultimate example of a great athlete. He was highly competitive but humble in his successes. It was an honor to be his teammate. There will always be only one “Chet the Jet!”
    My condolences to his family.
    Tom Stock

  20. jeff says:
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    Chet was Toledo’s first great swimmer and as a young aspiring fellow breaststroker inspired so many of us to want to follow in his footsteps and swim for Doc. Chet the Jet you will be missed!

  21. Dave Roadhouse says:
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    Chet was a teammate at the Toledo YMCA and Glass City Aquatic Club when I was 11 and he was 15. We became friends and he helped me develop my butterfly so by high school I became state champion. He was kind, encouraging, generous, and a true friend even later when I was swimming for Michigan and he was at IU. Jet, RIP.

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About Gisselle Kohoyda

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Midland, Michigan native Gisselle Kohoyda is all too familiar with life in the pool and on the deck, even with... Read More »