PHOENIX, Arizona, December 10. LAST week, the swimming community lost one of its champions as Don McKenzie, 61, passed away after a lengthy fight against brain cancer.
McKenzie, who was honored by the International Swimming Hall of Fame with induction in 1989, won a pair of Olympic gold medals at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. He walked away with wins in the 100 breast and as part of the 400 medley relay.
McKenzie, who competed for Indiana University during Doc Counsilman's epic run in the 1960s and 70s, won the 100-yard breaststroke at NCAAs. During his swimming career, he set a world record and five American records.
Here is ISHOF's synopsis of McKenzie's swimming career when he was inducted into the Hall:
Swimming is supposed to be predictable, perhaps more predictable than any other sport, but not so in the breaststroke at the 1968 Mexico Olympics. All four gold medal breaststroke winners were won by somebody other than the favorite. Hence, Sharon Wichman, USA and Djurdjica Bjedov, Yugoslavia won the women's races, and Felipe Munoz, Mexico and Don McKenzie, USA won the men's.
Of all these upsetters McKenzie was the least expected. McKenzie of Indiana had never won a national title and certainly never beaten the three USSR finalists including Nikolai Pankin, the world record holder. In fact, until the preliminaries, he had not beaten Ian O'Brian, Australia, Jose Fioli, Brazil, Vladimir Kosinsky, USSR or Dave Perkowski, USA, his teammate at Indiana. Only in the preliminaries had he shown he had a chance when he and Pankin tied for the second qualifier.
Filled with the self confidence of an Olympic winner in the 100 meter breaststroke, McKenzie went on to a second gold in the world record setting medley relay. The next year he repeated two triumphs for Indiana at the NCAA Championships. McKenzie certainly showed that Golden Dreams can be for real.