By Brent T. Rutemiller
NEW YORK, New York, November 21. IN a brave and stunning announcement during USA Swimming's Board of Directors meeting this past weekend, Chuck Wielgus told his members that cancer has returned to his body and has now entered his bones. He will remain in New York at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to begin aggressive treatment after Thanksgiving and continue to remain in doctor's care for at least two months.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is the oldest and largest cancer center in the country. The doctors have proposed a surgical plan that they hope will be a lifesaving attempt to remove the cancer tumors that have metastasized into two separate places within his bones. It's an aggressive surgery that will take place over three days with a long recovery period.
“We're all very optimistic about it, and while full recovery will take six months, I'm hoping to get back to work by the end of January,” Wielgus said. “I'm incredibly fortunate to have my case taken on by the best cancer fighters on Earth.”
Wielgus was first diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006 during the Christmas holidays. He made what appeared to be a full recovery at the time, thanks to daily radiation treatments and a 24-hour mobile intravenous chemo-injection system that he toted around his office for six weeks.
A year later, Wielgus returned strong to lead the organization through the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympic Games. Wielgus' strength and leadership was so respected that in 2010 his name was found on the shortlist of candidates to lead the United States Olympic Committee.
Throughout his tenure, many of Wielgus' visions for USA Swimming have come to fruition, none more apparent than the ninth annual Golden Goggle Awards held Monday. The black-tie event held in Marriot Marquis off New York's Times Square was a sold-out event with more than 800 guests. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Dara Torres gave out the first award, while Donald Trump and Gary Hall Jr. presented the final award. Bob Costas was the Master of Ceremonies along the way, introducing star-studded presenters from television, theater and the sports world who then went on to announce the winners of USA Swimming's most prestigious awards. Wielgus was certainly smiling from ear to ear throughout the evening.
Just as the Golden Goggles has become the premiere night for recognizing athletic accomplishments, a new event called SplashMakers was held the day before in a private dinner upstairs at the Smith and Wollensky restaurant in midtown New York. SplashMakers is a once-every-four-years dinner event that revolves around a book recognizing the accomplishments of 16 individuals who have made an impact on the sport. Each person's story is collectively bound in a four-color limited edition hardback book. The authors selected to write each story were selected from a prestigious national crop of sports writers.
“SplashMakers is a project designed to memorialize and share the inspirational stories of people from all segments of the swimming family. Hopefully, people will see this inaugural edition as a worthy start to what will be an ongoing Olympic year project,” said Wielgus.
The inaugural event, held in a part of town rich in literature and frequented by classic writers and famous publishers, was just the latest example of Wielgus' leadership and ideas coming to fruition.
On behalf of the entire swimming community, Swimming World once again wishes Wielgus the speediest of recoveries and strength to him and his family.