USA Swimming CEO Chuck Wielgus Dies at 67

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.

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Pvdh
4 years ago

Rest In Peace

korn
4 years ago

RIP Chuck. You made the world a better place and our sport better. Thoughts and prayers to the Wielgus family and to the swimming community!

ERVINFORTHEWIN
4 years ago

Rest In Peace Buddy – your contribution has been huge and very encouraging for the sport , the fans , the athletes and everyone else . Thank you

Years of Plain Suck
4 years ago

Wielgus had a very good 20 year run!

It’ll be interesting to see if he is posthumously elected to ISHOF. I’d say that he deserves the honor.

Nah
4 years ago

If he was such a great guy, he probably shouldn’t have been taking home a million dollar salary. He shouldn’t have been in that position being so sick anyway. Give some of that money back to the US athletes stipend, you know the people who actually make USA swimming so great? Such a waste of time and money.

Walter
Reply to  Nah
4 years ago

Sometimes, when you have nothing good to say, it’s best to not say anything. This is one of those times.

New beginnings
Reply to  Walter
4 years ago

He died. I’m sure his family will miss him. But the victims of sexual abuse who were assaulted _after_ he knew of the prior actions of the abusers will likely not share your sentiments of the good he did.

Sir Swimsalot
Reply to  Nah
4 years ago

Someone has no sense of decency…

Taa
Reply to  Nah
4 years ago

I agree he was sucking on the teet all the way to the end. Shoulda got out of the way after that horrid tv interview.

Agree
Reply to  Nah
4 years ago

The same guy that helped fenagle Dagny Knutson out of being paid the deal that USA swimming was supposed to give her…

mcgillrocks
Reply to  Nah
4 years ago

Just because someone isn’t physically swimming doesn’t mean they don’t deserve credit for creating and promoting institutions that bring people to the sport, encourage them to compete and reward performance.

Nah
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

I refuse to glorify someone just because they have passed away and I’m gonna have to disagree with you there, the athletes should ALWAYS come first. Someone in that position should be selfless and refuse to accept that amount of cash.
How many of the executives at USA swimming have actually swum at an elite level, brought home international medals and actually know firsthand what it’s like to be in the athlete’s shoes? Just curious.

mcgillrocks
Reply to  Nah
4 years ago

I think it’s a lot to ask that anyone basically perform 40 hours per week of charity, especially if the market is willing t0 pay them 7 figures.

Secondly, I don’t think it’s as necessary as you seem to think that Execs have been top-flight elite swimmers. Bill Belichick is probably the greatest NFL coach in history. He never played a single down in the NFL. Athletic talent, and the ability to coach or be an administrator are imperfectly correlated.

Agree
Reply to  mcgillrocks
4 years ago

I don’t think that Nah is saying he had to do everything for free but a million is a little outlandish when some of your world record holders aren’t even making a third of that.

I do agree that someone didn’t have to be a good swimmer to be good at coaching or running the business side of USA swimming. However, it does certainly help someone in that position to understand the time and sacrifices made by elite athletes if that person in charge has spent even a week in those shoes…. it may also be a little harder to scam your country’s best swimmers out of money that way if you know what they have gone through

Mr. Retiree
4 years ago

Condolences to all who grieve…

Swim mom
4 years ago

Chuck was a leader, visionary, a good man and a friend. I will miss him.

And let’s remember when commenting to watch how harshly you judge. We all make mistakes. Chucks missteps are greatly outwighed by his amazing character and accomplishments. There are few who have worked harder for this sport.

New beginnings
Reply to  Swim mom
4 years ago

Or those missteps open the window to see his true character.

Cay Andres
4 years ago

Rest In Peace you will be missed in your exit from this plane. Thank you for your dedication to swimming.

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. 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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