Former USOC President Robert Helmick Dies at 66 -- April 15, 2003
DES MOINES, Iowa, April 15. FORMER United States Olympic Committee (USOC) President and International Olympic Committee Vice President Robert H. Helmick died this morning in Des Moines, Iowa, at the age of 66.
A lifelong resident of Des Moines, Helmick was a partner in Dorsey & Whitney LLP since 1991 practicing law in the area of public finance. He was a 1957 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Drake University and earned his law degree in 1960 as the valedictorian and editor of the Drake Law Review.
Bob Helmick began his aquatic journey playing water polo in high school in 1955. He became a member of his state team and went on to compete internationally until his final comon in 1959. He continued to coach water polo at the Des Moines YMCA following his retirement as an athlete. Although Helmick never competed on the US National Team or an Olympic Team, he served as the manager of the USA team that earned the bronze medal at the 1972 Munich Olympic. He also served as the chairman of US Water Polo committee of the AAU from 1969 to 1972 and was elected President of the AAU in 1978. He was honored by US Water Polo and inducted as a member of their Hall of Fame in 1984.
In 1981, Helmick was presented with the AAU Swimming Award, given annually to the person or organization that makes the most outstanding contribution to swimming during the previous year. This award is now known as the "USA Swimming Award."
In 1972 he was named Secretary of the FINA Technical Water Polo Committee and pressed for the introduction of a second referee and the use of ear guards at FINA and Olympic competitions, and worked for a greater harmonization of the rules of Olympic Water Polo and those of the NCAA. In 1976 he was elected the Secretary of FINA, the international federation governing the sports of swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and his favorite sport of water polo. Helmick was reelected to a second term in 1980 and at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles he was elected President of FINA. He was an Executive Committee member of the Los Angeles Organizing Committee.
Helmick served as the President of the AAU from 1978 to 1980 and later became the President of the United States Olympic Committee following the untimely death of newly-elected USOC President John "Jack" Kelly, Jr. Helmick was elected as a member of the IOC member of June 6, 1985, and later became a member of the IOC Executive Committee and a Vice-President of the IOC. For a time he was one of the most important leaders of the Olympic movement. He voluntarily resigned all of his positions within the USOC, the IOC and FINA in 1991 when questions were raised about a conflict of interest related to his legal representation of a variety of US sports organizations that were campaigning for recognition by the USOC or the IOC.
As the Secretary of FINA he was an ardent supporter of three entries per event in swimming, arguing that "as three Olympic medals are awarded, it is only correct, that each country has the right to present contenders for each medal at the Olympic Games." At the FINA Congress held during the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, the entry procedure for swimming events was changed to allow only two swimmers per event from each nation to be effective at the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Due to President Carter's boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games, neither Americas athletes nor its sports leaders including Helmick were able to campaign against the decision by FINA to limit the participation to the two athletes per event rule which still exists today.
In 1985 under Helmick's leadership FINA approved the entry of the 50 meter freestyle event for men and women.
Just weeks prior to his death he donated his papers and Olympic memorabilia to the Henning Library located at the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Helmick is survived by his wife Georgia, and four children from a previous marriage; John of Eugene, Oregon; Robert M. Helmick of Greenwood Village, Colorado; Suzanne Helmick Book of Englewood, Colorado and Stephanie Helmick Ormsby of Crystal Lakes, Illinois
Funeral arrangements are pending.