Chuck Wielgus to Retire as Executive Director of USA Swimming

USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus has announced his retirement as of Wednesday afternoon. Wielgus is retiring after serving as Executive Director for nearly 20 years. Despite his contract being extended through 2020, his retirement will be effective on August 31st, 2017.

With his 19 years of service, Wielgus is the longest-tenured chief executive of an Olympic national governing body. He has also served as the Chief Executive Officer of the USA Swimming Foundation since it came to fruition in 2004.USA Swimming has released the following statement from Wielgus regarding his retirement:

“This has been a long and difficult decision because I love USA Swimming and I have always approached my role with enthusiasm and passion. It has been an honor and a privilege to walk through the doors every day at USA Swimming with our dedicated and talented staff and work in service to our athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers who comprise the membership of our wonderful organization,” Wielgus said. “I believe with all my heart that USA Swimming’s best years are ahead. I am confident that the work we have done these past two decades has established a firm foundation upon which future growth can occur.”

Wielgus’ time as Executive Director has been marked by both success and difficulties. One of those difficulties has been a battle with cancer. In 2007, Wielgus had fought off stage 3 colon cancer, but it came back in 2012 and progressed to stage 4. Wielgus is on lifelong chemotherapy, getting treatments every 2 weeks.

Another primary challenge embattling Wielgus has been the issue of sexual abuse, as the organization has faced several cases in which young athletes were abused by coaches. Nothing was done about the sex abuse issue until a 20/20 report exposed the breadth of such cases. It was also exposed by the AP that USA Swimming wrote former Executive Director Everett Uchiyama a glowing recommendation for an Aquatics Director position, even after learning that Uchiyama had been banned for alleged sexual misconduct with a swimmer.

Wielgus did, however, oversee the implementation of the SafeSport program, and in the 5 years since the 20/20 report came out, many long-known sexual abusers have been banned form the sport.

Despite criticisms in light of the sex abuse issues, John Leonard of the American Swim Coaches Association stands in support of Wielgus. Leonard said, “I don’t believe in him because he’s been perfect. I believe in him because he hasn’t. And he hasn’t because he has (largely) taken on the HARD stuff.”

While Wielgus has recieved criticism, he’s also been recognized for his success. Under Wielgus, the USA Swimming Foundation was launched, which has led to events such as the Golden Goggle Awards and programs such as the Make-A-Splash program. He’s also seen substantial growth in the U.S. Olympic Trials event, which is now held in a 17,000-seat basketball arena.

Others have spoken out to express support and gratitude, including Scott Blackmun, the United States Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer. Blackmun released the following statement:

“Swimming in the United States has never been stronger, and that is because of Chuck. He is a true sportsman, loving sport for how it makes us feel and how it brings us together. We are grateful for our successes together and look forward to seeing his good work make a difference in the lives of athletes for many years to come.”

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beachmouse
5 years ago

While there were mistakes made during his time at the top, he leaves the organization in excellent financial shape and with a bottom to top strategy going from swim lessons for all to a fully funded national team always ready for great performances on the world stage. Safe Sport also seems to be doing what it was designed to, even though it was started under not great circumstances.

Here’s hoping his successor doesn’t see the need to make too many changes to what seems to be working really well right now., and I wish Chuck well

Swim Mom
5 years ago

Terrible news about cancer, but retirement was long overdue. Now ASCA leadership needs to retire so swimming can start over fresh and clean.

Swimmer A
5 years ago

The man did a tremendous job of growing our sport and making it a prime time Olympic event. He also allowed wide spread sexual abuse to take place for an uncomfortably long time. The whole point of carrying on someone’s legacy is to show future generations what it takes to be great. And I think that just like it is important to carry on his legacy as a visionary in our sport, we must also be reminded of his failure to act against sexual abuse in a leadership role to show the next generation of leaders that THIS IS NOT OK.

He who remains Unknown
Reply to  Swimmer A
5 years ago

I totally agree

David Berkoff
5 years ago

I got to know Chuck when I was on the Board from 2010 to 2014. Although Chuck faced, handled and accepted a lot of criticism (especially his initial handling of the sex abuse issue), I found Chuck to be a caring, hard-working, thoughtful, and open-minded leader for our sport. And although there are those out there who will always see Chuck as the villain, his willingness to hear helped the organization to implement the best safe sport program in all of amateur sports. Moreover, his ideas for the sport (e.g. The Olympic Trials and the athlete partnership programs) were visionary. Before Chuck, USAS leadership often proclaimed that “swimming would never be a spectator sport”. Chuck changed that and helped make… Read more »

Don
Reply to  David Berkoff
5 years ago

To call those who dare be critical as haters is laughable as well as dismissive of the plight of the victims. If you believe that a little collateral damage on the way to success is fine, then you should follow him to the retirement home.

KSchwim
Reply to  Don
5 years ago

You know what you’re right. The way to success is always flawless and mistake-free. The sport of swimming especially has taught us that there will never be bumps on the road to success.

“those who dare be critical”? Are you kidding?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place… Read more »

Don
Reply to  KSchwim
5 years ago

@KCCHWIM. At least credit Teddy Roosevelt if you want to haul out that quote. Is Joe Paterno equally as successful in your eyes? He brought wins and cash into the Penn State athletic department. Would you give him a free pass as well for his covering of a pedophile?

Just Another Opinion
Reply to  Don
5 years ago

The sport of swimming is safer now, at the end of Wielgus’s tenure, than it was before he arrived. It still isn’t perfect but he left it much better than it was before.

I’m appreciative of what Wielgus has done to make swimming a relatively safe pursuit for my children, while I also understand that risks still exist (just as they do everywhere in life). Life is full of danger but that doesn’t me from trying to enjoy it and to share that joy with others. If you’re going to hate everyone who falls short of flawless or everything that is imperfect, however, you’re in for a lifetime of disappointment and bitterness. The only person with the opportunity to… Read more »

Don
Reply to  Just Another Opinion
5 years ago

If you interpret all criticism as hate then you are headed down a separate path of unhappiness. Those who cover for pedophiles are not above criticism.

Swim mom
Reply to  Don
5 years ago

Don. What pedophile did you claim Chuck “covered for”? If that statement had an ounce of truth he’d be in jail.

taa
Reply to  David Berkoff
5 years ago

Its good to hear an insider point of view but that TV interview on the sex abuse issue he did was really cringeworthy and the other thing that bugs me still today is he takes too much credit for the success of USA swimming. Just read the current press release and his bullet points of all “his accomplishments” I know he tries to backtrack and credit the whole organization but just about every press release or communication I have read from him over the years is written from a point of view of “look at the great job I am doing” thats how I read it anyway.

Don
5 years ago

Sympathy for the cancer but no forgiveness for his covering of abusive coaches

(G)olden Bear
Reply to  Don
5 years ago

^ This. Putting the interests of USAS over those of the victims. Unforgivable.

FTP
Reply to  (G)olden Bear
5 years ago

I easily would trade his cancer forcing him out earlier if it meant many of these children not being abused.

Mardo4
5 years ago

Sorry to hear anyone battling a terminal illness. Glad he is willing to assist transition.

marklewis
5 years ago

He’s battling Stage 4 cancer, and the 2016 Olympic year is over, so maybe it was a good time to hand over the reins.

Boi
5 years ago

Dream job

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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