DALLAS, April 19. DOUBLE Olympic champion Jerry Heidenreich, 51, took his own life yesterday in Dallas, Texas.
Heidenreich, who suffered a stroke last summer, never seemed to regain his complete health and had been suffering from depression. He had been seeing a professional for help.
According to Chris McCurdy, coach of ATAC and Jerry's brother-in-law, "He made a choice to take his own life with pills and was found by a neighbor in his bed late in the afternoon."
Heidenreich, who swam for SMU in his collegiate career, was one of the world's top sprinters in the early 1970s, maintaining a fierce rivalry with Mark Spitz.
In 1971, swimming in lane 8 at the NCAA Championships, Heidenreich broke Mark Spitz's American and NCAA mark of 1:38.35 for the 200 yard freestyle.
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, he finished second to Spitz in the 100 meter freestyle (51.22 to 51.65). Then he teamed with Spitz and two other US teammates to win gold in both the 400m freestyle and 400m medley relay, both in world record time. In the free relay, he recorded the fastest 100 meter split among all the swimmers in the race.
Dr. Gary Hall, a teammate of Heidenreich's on the 1972 Olympic team, told SwimInfo: "What a shocker. Jerry was one of the most naturally gifted athletes I've ever known. His death is a tremendous loss to our sport."
We will pass along information on the funeral arrangements as we receive it.