Legendary Coach Jon Urbanchek Honored with IOC Lifetime Achievement Award

Jon Urbanchek, the legendary coach who helmed the University of Michigan men’s team from 1982 to 2004, has been given an IOC Lifetime Achievement Award for coaches.

After his days as the Wolverines’ head coach were done, Urbanchek stayed on as an assistant to coaches Bob Bowman and Mike Bottom before moving to Southern California to coach professional athletes at a training center in Fullerton in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics in London.

The International Olympic Committee explained the award in a release posted on TeamUSA.com:

Jon Urbanchek (USA) has developed swimmers into Olympic medalists, world champions and world record holders throughout his coaching career. He has taken over 40 swimmers to represent their country at six editions of the Olympic Games from Barcelona 1992 to London 2012, bringing home over 20 Olympic medals, including 11 golds. Highly respected by his athletes, Urbanchek has also contributed significantly to their personal development beyond the swimming arena.

IOC Athletes’ Entourage Commission Chair Sergey Bubka said: “The role of a coach for an athlete goes beyond the field. It is about a journey and long-term collaboration. It is a great pleasure to honour the first two winners of the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Awards for their outstanding contributions to Olympians’ live and the Olympic Movement.”

A portion of the release calls Urbanchek a “retired” coach, but he still helps out on deck at the University of Southern California three days per week and has been known to show up at swim meets, including the recent USA College Challenge.

Urbanchek, 81, remains high energy and is adored throughout the American swimming community.

UPDATED Nov. 10: USA Swimming sent out a press release announcing Urbanchek’s honor:

The legendary Jon Urbanchek, a member of six U.S. Olympic Swimming Team coaching staffs, was honored Thursday as the inaugural recipient of the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Award.

Presented at the IOC Women and Sport Gala, the IOC Coaches Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize outstanding achievements and contributions to Olympians’ lives and the Olympic Movement.

Spanning a 20-year stretch, Urbanchek was a member of six U.S. Olympic Team coaching staffs – 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Forty-four Urbanchek-coached swimmers qualified for the Olympic Games, with this group winning more than 20 medals, including 11 gold medals. He coached Rod Strachan to the Olympic gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley in 1976 and was the primary coach of at least one Olympic gold medalist at every Olympic Games from 1996 to 2012.

Urbancheck was the primary coach of Olympic stars Mike Barrowman, Tom Dolan, Tom Malchow, Eric Namesnik, Eric Wunderlich, Gustavo Borges and Brent Lang and also has worked closely with many other legends, including Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky.

Additionally, his coaching tree has spawned many of today’s top American coaches, including fellow U.S. Olympic staff members Bob Bowman, Bruce Gemmell and Dave Salo.

“Jon Urbanchek is my role model, mentor and dear friend. He is one of best coaches and people this sport has ever seen,” said Bowman, the U.S. men’s head coach for the 2016 Olympic Games. “Jon’s kindness and humor, paired with unmatched technical and scientific knowledge has helped a generation of swimmers and coaches advance our sport. No one is more deserving of this award for lifetime achievement.”

On the collegiate front, Urbanchek was the men’s head coach at the University of Michigan from 1983-2004 where he led the Wolverines to 13 Big Ten Conference titles, including 10 straight from 1986-95. A native of Hungary, Urbanchek was an All-American swimmer at Michigan from 1958-62.

He is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

8 Comments

8 comments

  1. John Razi

    Beautifully earned ! Kudos..mega !!!

    • Thomas Blake

      Thanks. I had not seen this. Great coach. Great man.

  2. avatar

    I was blessed to be coached by Jon on Beach Swim Club in Long Beach during my high school years. Congratulations Jon! You deserve this!!

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Author: David Rieder

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David Rieder is the host of Swimming World TV and a staff writer for Swimming World. A contributor to the magazine and website since 2009, he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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