This post was contributed by Jeff Grace, a friend and colleague of Nick’s.
I am writing this letter to thank you for the many great things you have done for me and many others throughout your life.
Your influence on me began when I was a swimmer. I received my first issue of ‘Swim’ (later to become SwimNews) came to my door in 1984 and from that point on I could not wait to receive the next issue in the mail. It was exciting to see how fast others across the nation were swimming and it was inspiring to read about my swimming idols. I can even remember even being entertained by ‘Backwash’ (a section of the magazine that provided commentary on the sport and invited the feedback of the readers) at a young age, even though I don’t think I understood half of it.
Eventually seeing my name published in the magazine was a thrill and even more of a thrill when I accomplished the goal of seeing my face in ‘Making Wave’ (a section of the magazine that celebrated the accomplishments of the top age group swimmers in the country by publishing their photograph and short write up). The impact the magazine had on athletes could not be expressed more accurately than it was by our mutual friend Doc Tihanyi (Coach of Alex Baumann, 1984 double Olympic Gold Medallist), “I remember the buzz each publication has created among my swimmers when they saw their names appear in the national publication. We were able to seek out opponents at different meets and prepare for competitions based on available statistics. It had faces, emotions, respect, determination, challenge in each of the issues.”
Those challenges motivated many swimmers to do things that they never thought were possible, it effected directly was when my coaches and teammates in Regina set the goal and accomplished being the top age group team in the country!
Since beginning my coaching career I have used the magazine to not only motivate the swimmers I have coached through TAG (National Age Group Rankings) and TOPS (Tiny Olympic Prospects, a program where swimmers 10 and under participated in a program that encouraged IM and aerobic based events), but have used it to inspire them through the many great articles you have published from the talent you sought out and developed. Writers such as Cecil Colwin, Craig Lord, Nikki Dryden, Russ Ewald, Karin Helmstaedt, Justin Finney and Katharine Dunn.
As another of our mutual friends Chris Givens once stated, “The kids enjoy seeing a hard copy in magazine format that they can have as a keepsake.” This is something that you tireless continued to provide the community, something that is disappearing with the continued growth of information on the Internet.
Seeing your name in a magazine is something special, seeing your name on the Internet is something that happens by simply punching your name into Google!
It was incredible to me, and I am sure unbelievable to our current generation of swimmers, that you did all your research and data entry by hand! That perseverance alone should be an inspiration for all of us to work just a little harder at what we do.
Once entering the world of coaching I began to understand just how much of an influence you had in the swimming world, how much you cared about the sport as a whole and how you were willing to speak up and speak out for what you thought was right, no matter what the consequence. Challenging the IOC, FINA and Swimming Canada on many occasions, exposing doping scandals many times over and taking a stance against things such as the advancement of suit technology.
Many have expressed this and I have included a few who wanted you to know it below.
“What a legend in the journalism game,” Paul Yetter (Head Coach T2 Aquatics).
“He was relentless in his pursuit of the truth and the story behind the story,” Dan Thompson, Former President of Swimming Canada and Canadian Olympian.
“(He was) very opinionated, he forced everyone to keep putting the bar higher and force them to analyze where we were and what to do better,” Pierre Lafontiane, CEO, Swimming Canada.
“Never shy to take on a challenge, Nick always stood by his writers whose range of work covered every hot and controversial topic in the sport. He was the ultimate journalist, standing by freedom of expression, while always supporting the swimmers, challenging the powers that be, and maintaining his integrity throughout his career,” Nikki Dryden, Swimnews reporter and Human Rights Attorney.
By believing in your writers and allowing them the freedom you did, your influence extended far beyond the world of swimming, bringing awareness to such causes as World Swim for Malaria, SwimLanka and Right to Play.
I was incredibly honoured when you invited me into the Swimnews family, believing in me strongly enough to publish my work. You have always encouraged me to develop my own voice in the swimming world and my own voice as a writer.
I have had many ups and downs in my life in the last 6 or 7 years, but no matter what was going on, your belief and trust in me has always given me inspiration and motivation to continue to develop my writing, which many times got me through those downs.
Craig Lord has expressed similar thoughts, “Nick was a publisher, editor, writer and above all in later years guardian to a team of writers in whom he saw promise and encouraged to use their skills in the interests of keeping a true record of the sport of swimming. If his encouragement and support in the role of “second father” set sail many of fine media career, then his generosity was second to none: the calls (and sometimes demands) for help with rankings, statistics, biographies and more often came thick and fast – and “Sure, I’ll send it straight through” was the standard reply.”
The things I have mentioned to this point are the things you have done in your professional career, but what has meant the most to me and many is your friendship. I have always enjoyed our visits when I have been able to make it back to Toronto. I was touched by how much respect and care you showed me and after each time that we got to spend with each other I always came away feeling invigorated by the passion and enthusiasm you had not only for swimming, but for many things in life.
Your wealth of knowledge is incredible, I will never forget our last visit where you educated me, with child like excitement, on the art of organ building, you shared with me your correspondence with organ builders throughout the world and even shared with me that if things could be different you may have chosen to be an organ builder yourself! (Thank you for not making that choice your absence in many of our lives could not have been filled by another.)
Nikki was also touched by your passion for things outside of the swimming world, “Nick was actually not as much of a ‘swim junkie’ as many of us! He had rich and diverse interests, from reading about Cuba (where he lived as a child) to listening to one of his 2000 classical or Cuban music CDs. Nick could always be found at home cooking gourmet meals for guests that started with great wine and ended with cappuccino from his industrial machine. Knowing Nick was to learn about life, not just swimming.”
It has always been amazing to me just how many people you have touched, like our friend Justin Finney, “Nick was like a father to me. I loved that he spoke the truth and told it like it is. Most of all, I will miss the great conversations Nick and I would have every morning on my 45 minute drive into the National Training Centre in Montreal over the last four years. Nick was a great supporter of mine and would give me the best advice to help me throughout my coaching career.”
“He saw the good in me. He truly inspired me and pushed me to be the best I can be. I will always be indebted to Nick for his unconditional love and support.”
You also had an incredible effect on the athletes you coached like Patty (Thompson) Bogumil, Member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Canadian Olympian, “I could never thank Nick enough for believing in me.”
A quote comes to mind when thinking about all you have done for others, “The great and glorious masterpiece of humanity is to know how to live with a purpose,” Montaigne.
Nick you truly have known how to live your life with a purpose and know that there are many of us who are extremely grateful to you for not only what you have done for the world of swimming, but what you have done for us personally.
Sincerely and with love,
I wish I could have sent my dear friend this letter while he was still with us, but unfortunately I cannot.
I hope it gives those who will read this an insight into the man Nick was and what he meant to so many of us who will miss him dearly.