USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus has died after complications from colon cancer, with which he has battled in multiple rounds since 2006. He was 67.
Wielgus took over as USA Swimming’s Executive Director in July of 1997. Nearly 20 years of employment made him the longest-tenured chief executive under the USOC umbrella.
“This is an extremely sad day, as we lost Chuck Wielgus, one of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside. He will be missed by all of us in USA Swimming and all his friends and colleagues around the world. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Nancy, and his entire family in this difficult time,” said USA Swimming Board of Directors Chair Jim Sheehan. “Chuck was one of the finest CEOs in all of sport and his leadership of USA Swimming has made it the premier National Governing Body in the Olympic movement. Chuck’s selflessness, compassion and intelligence have been hallmarks of his work with the staff, Board of Directors, athletes, coaches and volunteers of USA Swimming.”
Wielgus announced in January that he would retire as the organization’s Executive Director and USA Swimming has already begun the search for his successor.
Wielgus oversaw a period of unprecedented financial growth in American swimming as well as a period that included the greatest controversy in the history of the sport. During Wielgus’ tenure, The Arena Pro Swim Series helped legitimize professional swimming in the country, and the United States Olympic Trials moved from a 5,000-seat natatorium to a 17,000-seat basketball arena.
Wielgus also was in charge during a period that saw the revelation of widespread child abuse within the ranks of USA Swimming coaches, for which Wielgus went on national television and initially challenged those who demanded an apology from him. He later softened his stance, but was forced by public outcry to withdraw himself after being elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
“Chuck Wielgus was an impactful and respected leader in the U.S. Olympic Movement,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “During his tenure at USA Swimming, American swimmers enjoyed more success and more support than ever before. He had a passion for his work and cared deeply about sport. Chuck fought a long and hard battle with amazing grace and optimism, and will be missed.”
During Wielgus’ time with USA Swimming, its membership has grown from 200,000 to 400,000, with revenues increasing by 600% in the same period. He also created the annual Golden Goggle Awards ceremony.
Prior to joining USA Swimming, Wielgus was the executive director of the Senior PGA Tour Tournament Directors Association and from 1989-1996 was the executive direct of United States Canoe and Kayak.
Wielgus is survived by his wife Nancy, daughters Savannah and Shelby, sons Chip and Tommy and four grandchildren.