#30MostSwimfluential: Chuck Wielgus

Chuck Wielgus
Photo courtesy: USA Swimming

Who is Chuck Wielgus?

  • Worked as the Executive Director of USA Swimming since 1997 as well as CEO of the USA Swimming Foundation from its beginning in 2004.
  • Before working with USA Swimming, served as the executive director of the Senior PGA Tour Tournament Director’s Association, the executive director of the USA Canoe and Kayak Team, executive director of the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association, and coached multiple sports in Woodstock, Vermont.
  • In 1996, named a Sports Ethics Fellow by the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island.
  • Has won several awards from the American Swimming Coaches Association, College Swimming Coaches Association, International Hall of Fame, and the El Pomar Foundation, including a National Great Comebacks Award in 2011 for beating cancer and his contributions to the swimming community.
  • Has co-authored three books with the help of Sports Illustrated Senior Writer, Alexander Wolff and was involved with the successful movie Hoop Dreams, in 1994.
  • Championed the Safe Sport Program for USA Swimming starting in 2010 to uncover and eradicate sexual abuse in swimming.
  • Oversaw the creation of the USA Swimming Foundation, which has worked towards greater racial diversity in swimming using outreach programs like Make a Splash.

How has he influenced the swimming community?

Since being hired as executive director of USA Swimming in 1997, Chuck Wielgus has had a vision of changing the nature of swimming in the U.S. from an Olypmic “every four years” sport to an every year sport. His core objectives from the beginning were to build a core membership for USA Swimming, promote swimming, and to achieve competitive success. He has made strides in making that dream become a reality–in the past ten years USA Swimming has enrolled an additional 100,000 new members and achieved a retention rate over 70 percent (much higher than many other sports). U.S. swimmers have been hugely successful on the international scene, the U.S. Olympic Trials and Golden Goggles are gaining prestige year after year, and swimming has become one of the most self-aware and safe sports in terms of sexual abuse. Regarding the sexual abuse scandals in swimming, Wielgus has come a long way since his disastrous “20/20” T.V. interview in 2010.

In a 2014 interview with Swimming World, Wielgus said of his work with the Safe Sport Program, “I think that’s where we’re going to hang our hat, on the work that’s been done and the safer environments that we’ve created for the kids who are members of our sport.”

Thanks, Chuck, for helping our sport to grow, both in numbers and in character.

*USA Swimming and Speedo invited the swimming community to help celebrate their 30 years of partnership by voting for the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years.” Votes were cast through social media with the hashtag #30MostSwimfluential and the final vote came from a panel of 10 judges selected by USA Swimming and Speedo. All 30 nominees have had a powerful impact on the swimming community. Many are recognizable names, but some have remained unsung heroes of the sport. Swimming World will profile each swimfluential person over the course of the week.

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