April 15, 2014
Posted at www.SwimVortex.com
The late Nick Thierry, to whom our site is dedicated, is the 2013 recipient of the R. Max Ritter Award presented posthumously and in recognition of his life-long affair with swimming.
United States Aquatic Sports announced the award this evening at a ceremony in Toronto, where Nick Thierry lived and worked for many years until his death in October 2012. USAS said that the award "honours the memory of a man whose unselfish contributions including keeping the history book of swimming straight, simple and true for the benefit of athletes, coaches and also for national federations as well as the international body FINA."
There to receive the honour on behalf of Nick was one of his former swimmer's Judy Garay, daughter of Valerie Gyenge, the Hungarian Olympic 400m freestyle champion of 1952. Garay represented Canada in the 1978 Commonwealth Games, where she made breaststroke finals. She missed the Olympic cut in 1980 by 0.06sec.
Max Ritter, the German-born former American president of FINA, came up with the idea of developing the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) and it all began in1961. Thierry is already inducted in the Hall (refer to the attached document for details).
In accepting the honour on Nick's behalf, Garay said:
"It is both an honour and a pleasure accepting The R. Max Ritter for Nick. It is also quite and emotional moment for me. When you have had a coach that you have known all your life, and in essence Nick knew me before I knew him, you can imagine the influence he has had on not only my swimming career, swimming in general, but also how I conduct myself in all areas of my life. I am thrilled that he has been recognized for all the work he has done and his dedication to enhancing and bettering swimming in Canada and all over the World.
"However, I do have to smile to think about how Nick would have felt and what he would have said if he were up here. Likely he would have been honoured, embarrassed and to others he would have said, what he did was not such a big deal, others have done just as much.
"Nick compiled statistics and kept everyone updated on what was going on in the world, not because he wanted recognition, but because he felt that by letting us all know what was going on “out there” we could better work towards our own excellence. In some ways he evened the playing field, he connected countries, athletes and coaches towards a common goal, he motivated young swimmers across the globe. He created conversations and relationships across the swimming world that did not exist before.
"However, Nick was always on the look out for the “little guy.” He fought for the underdog; he fought for the lone club swimmer and the small club coach. He believed in excellence, he believed in fairness, he believed integrity. As I speak of myself for a moment, Nick was my mentor, coach and friend for my most formative years. I trained with him from the age of 6 to 20 with only a small hiatus when he went to the US to work for Swimming World.
"As a teenager, and maybe not the most agreeable one, we butted heads quite a bit. But Nick accepted these confrontations as part of my growth, and always looked at me and all his swimmers as more than just the athlete in the pool, but the human being we would grow up to be. Most of us who swam with Nick are still fighters for causes to do with swimming and athletes or are still promoters of the sport and Nick’s ideals.
"On a personal note, I was a swimmer from his small club. At most we had maybe 10 swimmers swimming nationally. By the end there was one or two. Nick would always say that I needed to be true to myself and when I ran into serious issues with the National Team coaches, he gave me options, never advice, and also made clear the possible consequences. To this day, that experience has taught me to never back down from what you really believe is right, never compromise your values and never be a bystander when you could do something."
"I am sure he is looking down at this now, I hope he is happy that I was able to accept this on his behalf, and for those of us who know Nick and to quote is famous line:
“It is not true until it has been officially denied.”