PHOENIX, Arizona, September 27. NEARLY everyone who has visited the pool that is currently home to the Phoenix Swim Club has seen “The Wall.” The signatures of Olympians who have stopped by the landmark facility have sparked lots of conversations among the children and adults who have analyzed them for the past 25 years.
The idea came from three of the founders of Phoenix Swim Club: Gary Hall Sr. and his wife, Mary, along with Mary’s sister Kathy Hubbard. They planned for a new office and locker room building to be erected on the grounds that would contain a wall where famous swimmers could sign their names.
When the property became a casualty of the American Continental Corporation and Lincoln Savings & Loan takeover by government regulators in 1989, the property went into receivership through the Resolution Trust Corporation. Plans to create the new building at that point were scrapped. The idea to have a “Wall of Fame” remained, and that wall currently resides on the property’s cafeteria/meeting room.
With the facility currently on schedule for demolition to make way for a housing development sometime in 2014 (though efforts are being made to preserve the pools), Swimming World visited the facility and photographed some of the names on the wall. It’s become a de facto museum, with the history of world swimming scrawled on the wall in permanent marker.
Over the years, as the facility has seen new owners and has been in danger of demolition, the first concern has been to find a way to save the wall. Though the current sale of the property is not final, surely public and private entities will expressed a desire to preserve the wall in some fashion if the building was demolished.
Below are some of the signatures that grace the wall at the Dottie Boryeko Sports Complex, commonly known as the Phoenix Swim Club.
Anita Nall lives in the Phoenix area, and as one of America’s most successful 200 breaststrokers in history, her name brings back memories of her close battle in the event at the 1992 Olympics, where she won silver.
Deena Deardurff won Olympic gold as part of the American team in the 400 medley relay at the 1972 Olympics.
Josh Davis was part of two Olympic Games, winning three gold medals in 1996 and two silver medals in 2000. The Bible passage referred to in his signature comes from Philppians 3:8.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
Janet Evans was one of the first to sign her name on the wall. Shortly after winning three gold medals in the 1988 Olympics, Evans visited Phoenix as a guest of Charles Keating and stopped by the pool.
Joe Hudepohl was a vital relay swimmer at the Olympics in 1992 and 1996, winning gold in the 800 free relay in 1992 and bronze in 1996, as well as gold in the 400 free relay in 1992.
Crissy Ahmann-Leighton didn’t have to travel far to put her name on the wall. In addition to being an Olympic medalist in 1992, she was an Arizona Wildcat just south of Phoenix in Tucson.
We wouldn’t expect the Japanese national team to sign their names in Cyrillic letters, and as you can see, they did it their way.
Roland Schoeman has walked through the gates of the Phoenix Swim Club pool more than most of the Olympians on the wall. He raced at the pool a few times as a member of the University of Arizona team and later as a postgrad while training for the 2000 and 2004 Games for South Africa. He also made the Olympic team in 2008 and returned for a fourth Olympics in 2012 after a year of training at the pool, where he still trains. As you can see, he made his mark on the wall before making the 2012 team, then found a new marker to add “2012” to his signature.
A few members of the British Olympic team have come through the facility, including Ross Davenport, Simon Burnett, Ian Turner and David Carry. Also in this photograph, you can see the signature of Swiss Olympian Dominik Meichtry. With Switzerland being such a small country, it’s no surprise that his signature takes over part of France and Germany as well.
Misty Hyman was born and raised in the Phoenix area, and raced in the Phoenix Swim Club pool many times. Hyman probably had dreams of putting her name on the wall every time she came to the pool, and after winning gold in the 2000 Olympics, that dream came true.
Like Hyman, Kalyn Keller was born and raised in Phoenix and was once a member of the Phoenix Swim Club. She also got to return to the pool in her later years and put her name on the wall after qualifying for the 2004 Olympic team.
Kalyn’s brother Klete was also a fixture on the Phoenix Swim Club team and trained in the pool in his quest to qualify for the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, where he was part of some exciting races. In addition to his bronze medals in the 400 free in both meets, he held off Ian Thorpe in the anchor leg of the 800 free relay in 2004 to return the gold medal in the event to the United States.
Not all the names on the wall are Olympic athletes. Longtime coach Eddie Reese is on the wall just above 2008 open water Olympic swimmer Mark Warkentin. (Fitting that Warkentin’s name is placed in the open water of the Pacific Ocean.)
The signature is a little faded, but that’s the legendary Adolph Kiefer, who is possibly the oldest living swimming Olympic champion. Kiefer won gold in the 100 backstroke at the 1936 Olympics.
Jeff Rouse stopped by the Phoenix Swim Club and signed his name after making the 1992 Olympic team. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been back to add “1996” after also earning a spot on the Atlanta Olympic roster.
Earnie Shavers is the only name on the wall not connected to swimming … or the Olympics. Shavers, a former Phoenix resident, fought Muhammad Ali in 1977 and Larry Holmes in 1979 for the world heavyweight title. Shavers lost both times but was revered the boxing world for his fighting style.
Those big sweeping letters belong to three-time Olympian Tom Jager. Inside what should be a “T” is the signature of 1952 Olympic champion Gail Roper.
Jill Sterkel made four consecutive swimming Olympic teams for the United States, the first person to do so, and her name is immortalized on the wall.
Whitney Hedgepeth, now U.S. Masters coach of the year, made two Olympic teams eight years apart.
Rowdy Gaines, currently the voice of swimming and the sport’s leading ambassador, visited the pool and put his name on the wall.
Kurt Grote, who was a walk-on at Stanford University, made his way up the ranks to NCAA champion and then Olympian in 1996.
Beth Botsford is another Olympian who trained just south of Phoenix at the University of Arizona. She won gold in 1996 in the 100 back and medley relay.
It would take up a lot of wall space to include every Hungarian Olympian from the 1996 Olympic team, so this all-encompassing signature will do. Hopefully that means 1996 gold medalists Norbert Rosza and Krisztina Egerszegi spent some time training in the pool.
He retired before the 1996 Olympics, but Tamas Darnyi would have warranted his own space on the wall anyway as the only male besides Michael Phelps to win both individual medleys at two consecutive Olympics.
Carrie Steinseifer was involved in the first official tie for Olympic gold in swimming history, touching at the same time in the 100 free in 1984 with Nancy Hogshead. Also in the photo below, you can see the signature of 1996 Olympian Eric Wunderlich.
Amanda Beard was another Arizona Wildcat to spend lots of time racing at the pool, and she signed her name after making the 1996 team. She’s been back to the pool many times since, but did not add to her space after making the 2000, 2004 and 2008 teams.
Dave Wharton was a phenomenal racer, especially in the individual medley events. He held the world records in the 200 and 400 IMs during his career that included appearances at the 1988 and 1992 Games.
Troy Dalbey coached at the Phoenix Swim Club in the 1990s, and had the privilege of seeing his name on the wall on a daily basis.
Like Dalbey, Maryanne Graham-Keever was a former Phoenix Swim Club coach, and by virtue of her gold medal in the 1976 Olympics, she got to put her name on the wall. Also shown in the photo below is 2012 Olympian Jessica Hardy and 1996 Olympian Carlton Bruner.
Like Hedgepeth, Dana Vollmer made two Olympic teams eight years apart, and won gold medals in both. She won the 800 free relay in 2004 and 2012 and the 100 fly and 400 medley relay in 2012.
Yulia Efimova visited the Phoenix Swim Club in spring 2012, shortly after qualifying for the 2012 Olympics.
Melissa Belote is a Phoenix resident and swim coach, and a three-time Olympic champion from the 1972 Games.
Amy van Dyken spent a few years swimming at the University of Arizona and also lived in the Phoenix area for a few years, working in radio. Unfortunately, van Dyken didn’t stop by the pool to add “2000” to the list of Olympic Games she competed in.
Kristine Quance was known as a stellar individual medley swimmer and qualified for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Mike O’Brien won the 1500 freestyle at the 1984 Olympic Games and spent some time training in Arizona.
While the fate of the wall remains unknown, the signatures will always be remembered.