Former 100 Free World Record Holder Andy Coan Dies at 60

Former World Record holder Andy Coan passed away on Monday at 59 years old, succumbing to liver cancer.

Courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Coan grew up swimming at Pine Crest School in the 1970s, and at just 17 years old he broke Jim Montgomery’s 12-day-old World Record in the 100 meter freestyle when he swam 51.11. The record, done at a low-level AAU regional meet, was .01 seconds under Montgomery’s previous record, which in turn was held before that by the legendary Mark Spitz. That year he also swam a 43.99 to break the National High School Record in the 100 yard free – a time that stood for 16 years until Joe Hudepohl broke it.

Coan would only hold his mark for 20 days before Montgomery took it back (and proceeded to improve it by more than a second over the next year).

Coan, of the University of Tennessee, was an individual NCAA Champion in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles in 1978 – and that same year helped the Volunteers to become the first SEC team to ever win an NCAA team title in swimming. In all, he had 7 NCAA event titles.

Coan won 3 medals at the 1975 FINA World Aquatics Championships, including an individual in the 100 free.

After missing the 1976 Olympic and 1978 Worlds teams, Coan was in a car accident in 1979, after NCAAs, that broke both of his wrists and fractured his right knee cap. He came back to win the 50 free at the 1980 championships, and retired as a result of the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games. Coan was not one of the swimmers who opted to swim through the 1980 Trials that selected a team that already was without hope of a trip to Moscow for the Games.

Coan wound up serving as an assistant coach at Pine Crest rivals St. Andrew’s School from 2010-2012, where he worked with ISHOF inductee Sid Cassidy.

“Andy Coan was not only a good friend of mine but he was a great friend to the aquatic community,” Cassidy said in remembrance. “Way beyond his incredible accomplishments in the pool during his competitive career was his gift of earnest friendship and devotion. He brought the most positive attitude to the pool every day and his legacy will continue to live on through his son Richard and those he touched with his kindness.”

In 2015, Coan was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a disease linked to immune system function. There is some studies that have indicated a link between this condition and increased risk for cancer, though that link is not yet widely understood.

Coan is the second member of the U.S. National Team of that era to have died this month. Brian Roney, who did swim at the 1980 Olympic Trials and finished in the top 3, passed earlier this month just shy of his 57th birthday.

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25 Comments on "Former 100 Free World Record Holder Andy Coan Dies at 60"

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I remember seeing his name on my Ohio High School State Championships heat sheet from 1990, as he did indeed hold that national record in the 100 Free with 43.99. A young Joey Hudepohl posted a 44.66 that at this meet as a sophomore. He would, of course, break this record the following year. I also remember reading about his NCAA meet in 1980. I didn’t know he was in an accident that year, but I recall him talking about how he “just didn’t have the speed” that he used to in high school. I thought it was odd that he sounded so old at such a young age. Such a sad loss at an age too young by today’s… Read more »

If this picture of 31 yo elite swimmer is accurate then his biological clocks were indeed very fast. RIP.

He was inducted into the UT Hall of Fame in 2016, so that picture was from last year.

I see. The date of the picture taken got corrected.

Back in my day, Andy was THE sprinter. He practically owned 1974 and 1975 (shared with Jim Montgomery and Jonty Skinner), but something happened in 1976 and he was never again the international force everyone was excited about. Still, he was a world record holder, world champion, American record holder and NCAA champion and that is much more than 99.999% of the swimming world will ever experience. Plus, Andy was a good person. A real gem. I am absolutely saddened that we have lost a true champion at such a young age. Andy, you are a part of history and will never be forgotten. I know I will never forget you.

His talent level was off the charts. He was a no-name 10th grader who went to train with Jack Nelson at Pine Crest — then the second best HS program in the country (behind Santa Clara). In 11th grade, swimming in the Lawrenceville, NJ pool at the Eastern Interscholastic Champs (it was a slow pool, but a great meet), he did a 20.19 50 free and 43.99 100 free in what could best be described as a wake pool. These were unheard of times for high schoolers, and I think I recall correctly, would have won NCAAs that year. He became world champion in the 100 free a couple years later. He was the ultimate team player, insanely hard worker,… Read more »

For those generous souls interested in helping fund a college account for Andy’s 13 year old son Richard, one has been set up at

Kurt Wienants

This link does not gp to Richard Coan’s site

Sorry. Dropped a 1 at the end. Correct link is

Kurt Wienants


Thank you for the great post. Andy Coan was a bit ahead of my time, but I still recall going to Easterns at Lawrenceville in high school and seeing Coan’s 43.99 in the program as the pool & meet record.

Let me frame this a bit stronger for younger readers…Lawrenceville was a bathtub; just an awful 6 lane 25 yarder without a decent gutter system. Such an iconic swim and an amazing record.

This is a sad day for swimming. Rest easy, Andy Coan.

The Lawrenceville school pool in 1970s was not a slow pool it was an extremely fast pool I swim in it when it was brand-new in 1960 and was the hundred free and 50 free champion at that interscholastic meart. I was at the meet when Andy did his 43.99 as coach of Williston Acadamy and the standing ovation he received still makes me get goose bumps!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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