Coach Yutaka Terao: A Tribute

By Don Gambril

(The following tribute to coach Yutaka Terao, who took his life on Monday, was written for SWIMINFO by his close friend, coach Don Gambril.)

I have know Yutaka since 1969. He spent two entire years with me from 1970-'72. He drove all the way to Boston from Long Beach in an old '62 Chevy to follow me to Harvard.

Yutaka coached our age group team to help with his expenses. He was on deck every workout for the two years including all morning workouts. That meant some snowy mornings in Boston. The young age group swimmers loved him. He was not only kind, but outgoing and funny as well. He was a fine coach and his young swimmers all improved a great deal under his coaching.

Yutaka was a swimmer himself. He had spent the early years of his life, during World War II, in Mongolia, where his father was in the Army. Later, his father became a sumo wrestler. In those days, sumo wrestlers didn't have the extreme weight they have now. I saw photo of his father and he was tall, strong and big, but not fat.

Yutaka had one brother who died several years ago of Hodgkins' disease, I believe. His mother died of breast cancer. His father was not living when I met Yutaka.

Yutaka was married and divorced and has two daughters. The oldest is around thirty years old now; the other daughter is two to three years younger.

Yutaka started his coaching career at a swim school in Osaka in ' 73: The Rasa Swim School. It wasn't long before he was the owner and, right away, started a second school. Eventually he built 19. The last two or three were also exclusive health clubs. He expanded into the health club business at just the wrong time, in 1989, when the Japanese economy went south. Unfortunately, the new businesses finally pulled the successful schools down.

Prior to that, he was very heavily involved in running clinics and seminars throughout Japan as well as bringing delegations to the U.S. — young coaches to learn at the top U.S. swim clubs and universities. He never missed an ASCA convention. For years he brought the ASCA coach of the year to Japan for a clinic. He attended all the World Championships and Olympics and many of the Asian Games. He sponsored swimmers and coaches to come to the U.S. to train and learn.

Yutaka was always involved in business but took most of the money and put it back into swimming. He also sponsored synchronized swimmers. He had both coaches and swimmers that he sponsored make the Japanese Olympic teams. His life long dream was to restore Japanese swimming as a world power.

He was instrumental in the formation of the World Coaches Association (WSCA) and served as that group's first president, supporting it with personal financial aid to help get it off the ground.

He was always on the scene with a cheerful "Hello Don-san." He knew all the top coaches in the U.S. and Australia and was liked and respected by all who were fortyunate enough to know him. He truly was an ambassador for swimming.

Unfortunately, Yutaka suffered from severe diabetes and at one time spent an entire month in the hospital with it. Then, in the fall of ' 99, he had a colon cancer operation which at first seemed successful. The cancer, however, returned.

During all this, he had started a new "comeback business," as he called it. He was putting together a group that would continue to bring the best coaches in the world to Japan to lecture and keep raising the level of Japanese swimming.

Yutaka had come to Ft. Lauderdale to honor a very good friend of his who was being inducted as Honor Coach into the International Swimming Hall of Fame: the multi-time Japanese Olympic coach, Kouji Katoh. He was thrilled to see his good friend being honored.

We who knew Yutaka — and especially I — will miss him dearly. I am glad he is not suffering any more.

His Dear Friend,
Don Gambril

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