Niels Jorgensen, Coach of Olympian Sons Lars and Dan, Dies at 80

Niels Jorgensen, coach of 3 members of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team, has died. He was 80 years old.

Jorgensen was the father and coach of American distance legends Lars Jorgensen (now the head coach at Kentucky) and Dan Jorgensen, who were both members of the 1988 Olympic Team. Dan also qualified for the 1992 team, and won two medals: gold on the 800 free relay in Seoul in 1988 and bronze on the same relay in Barcelona in 1992.

Niels Jorgensen also coach Kirk Stackle at the Blue Fins swim team in San Diego. Stackle too qualified for the 1988 Olympic team, where he finished 19th in the 200 breaststroke.

Jorgensen’s background was in wrtesling, not swimming. He was an national champion in wrestling in his native Denmark, before catching typhoid fever in an outbreak in Switzerland that killed 23 of the 93 it hospitalized. He was later a “highly demanding part-time wrestling coach” in Baltimore. In an interview in the Los Angeles Times in 1988, something that carried over to his swim coaching.

Dan described him as a “very strict disciplinarian,” and said that “the workouts under him are more difficult than any other coach I’ve ever swum for.” Dan also described him as a proactive coach that is engaged throughout the workout – which was more unique for the era than it is now.

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Thank you on behalf of the many athletes the Jorgensen family impacted. Niels was an old school coach who was also cutting edge in many ways. He never compromised the value of hard work and lived to always do the right next thing.

Jan Keckler-Bazal

Niels was a neighbor, a friend and an excellent swim coach to both my son and daughter. He was demanding but he produced
winners and well disciplined athletes. My condolences to his wife and 2 sons.

sane swim parent

I remember him from the Sub Base Barracudas. One intense dude.

Jeff Keckler

Great man and coach! He will be missed!

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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