1956 U.S. Olympic women’s team coach Stan Tinkham died on April 9th at the age of 87. He has suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for several years.
Tinkham served as an Olympic coach when he was only 24-years old, one of the youngest in history. He earned the spot while coaching the team at the Walter Reed Army Hospital from 1954 through 1958: a position begun as a 22-year old Army private.
During his tenure there, the teams dominated the U.S. Senior National Championships. At one point, his team was so dominant that during his 5 year stint, his team won every women’s swimming event in at least one season.
The International Swimming Hall of Famer was the coach of, among others, Shelley Mann as part of that Olympic team. Mann won gold in the 100 fly at those Games, which made her the first-ever Olympic butterfly gold medalist after the stroke officially diverged from breaststroke.
Betty Mullen and Mary Jane Sears were also members of that team. Sears won bronze in the 100 fly that year – part of a 1-2-3 sweep for the Americans.
- Read about the Walter Reed Army Hospital team here in an article from a 1955 issue of Sports Illustrated.
After leaving that post, Stan built his own pool, which he named the Northern Virginia Aquatic Club, and coached many more female champions. The club closed in 1988.