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.