Vladimir Dolgov, a USSR Olympic medalist and a coach at North Carolina’s Sailfish Aquatics, died at 61 on Monday after a 10-month fight with inoperable stomach cancer.
Dolgov won the bronze medal in the 100 backstroke at the 1980 Olympic Games, representing the Soviet Union. He was a member of the USSR National Team for five years, and was ranked internationally as a top-10 backstroker for three years, according to his Sailfish Aquatics bio. He also won a silver medal in the 100 backstroke at the 1981 Summer World University Games.
In 2015, Dolgov joined Sailfish Aquatics in Concord, North Carolina, as a coach. In 2020, he became head coach of Sailfish’s Huntersville location.
“Vladimir was not only a coach, father and husband, but he was a great friend,” wrote Auburn commit Harrison Ranier, one of Dolgov’s swimmers. “Vladimir has been the most influential and impactful person in my life and I would be nowhere without his advice in and out of the pool. His goal for us was not only to be the best we could possibly be in the pool, but be the best young adults we could out of the pool as well.”
Dolgov also had professional education in athletics, having earned a Masters in Coaching and Physical Education and a PhD in Development of Swimming Technique and Methodology of Sport Training.
Andrew Lucky, who now swims at NJIT, also trained under Dolgov, said he and his teammates’ relationship with Dolgov was similar to Mr. Miyagi’s relationship to Daniel LaRusso in “The Karate Kid.”
“Vladimir was always more than a coach, I always felt like he was as important to me as a mentor and role model as my parents,” Andrew Lucky wrote. “He was always willing to do anything for his swimmers and always was willing to help with anything in the water and out. He remained committed to coach our small club, even through having been removed from several pools due to business complications with other teams and always gave 100% as a coach, and as a result he had a small family of swimmers who gave 100% back to him as swimmers. I will remember him as equally a mentor and role model as I will an amazing swim coach who was able to make me believe I could swim Division 1, which I ended up doing.”
Dolgov coached high school state champions, and top-ranked USA Swimming athletes who competed at meets like Junior Nationals, Senior Nationals, and Olympic Trials. He even trained an NCAA and World University Games Champion. Dwight Dickerman, CEO of Sailfish, thanked Dolgov posthumously for his positive impact on the team.
“He had undying faith in my talent and pushed me to achieve my potential not only in the pool but as a human,” Matthew Lucky wrote. “At first I was difficult when I switched to his group, but he never gave up on me. I never missed a single practice because I knew that I would gain something new from Vladimir each time. Within a year of training with him, he helped me break 5 NC records and get my first summer JR cut at 14. Vladimir created an environment that I met some of my best friends in. Vladimir made swimming feel like family and I am so appreciative for everything he has done for me and my team.”
Dolgov is survived by his wife and family.