Jesse Vassallo on 1978 Worlds, Olympic Boycott, and State of Swimming in Puerto Rico


1980, 84 Olympian Jesse Vassallo sat down with Swimming World TV’s Brent Rutemiller on Friday at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the renovation project for the Hall of Fame Aquatic Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Vassallo gave a lengthy interview where he talked about how he ended up moving with his family to the United States from Puerto Rico (0:53) and how he started training with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, at the time one of the world’s best training sites.

Vassallo also talked about his success at the 1978 Worlds (4:01) that led to him being named the World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World. He won the 400 IM and 200 back and was second in the 200 IM.

Vassallo was one of the gold medal favorites for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow that the United States boycotted for political reasons. Vassallo talked about how difficult it was to stay motivated (5:41) after finding out about the boycott was going to happen.

Vassallo said what he thinks the Olympics is supposed to be about (7:49) and how the world has changed since the late 1970’s.

Vassallo reflected on how he was able to refocus after the 1980 boycott (10:53) and rebound to make the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He talked about the knee reconstruction he went through in 1982.

Vassallo also gave an evaluation of the state of swimming in Puerto Rico (13:18) and how he got involved with the politics of the sport.

Jesse Vassallo was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1997, which he claims was the “biggest honor” in his career.


Vassallo (right) with Olympians Ryan Lochte and Caeleb Dressel at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex; Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

The International Swimming Hall of Fame hosted its groundbreaking ceremony for the Hall of Fame Aquatic Center $27 Million renovation project on Friday. The event was witnessed by hundreds of local media, swimmers, and south Florida citizens to celebrate the beginning of the future of the Swimming Hall of Fame Aquatic Center, Fort Lauderdale.

The renovations will include:

  • Remove existing 50m competition pool and provide a new expanded fully FINA compliant standard pool with stainless bulkheads.
  • Remove existing diving pool and provide new fully FINA compliant diving pool and tower including five platform levels (1m, 3m, 5m, 7m, 10m), and 1m and 3m springboards
  • Remove existing spa for divers and provide new spa
  • Repair existing 50m training pool with new surfacing and gutters
  • Relocate and expand the instructional pool to the southwest corner of the peninsula
  • Provide new filtration system, pumps, and chlorination system for all pools.
  • Resurface and raise pool deck to allow for increased pool depths for competition-level use
  • Remove existing grandstand building and bleachers on north side of facility and provide new grandstand with spectator restrooms, concessions, ticket office, and metal bleachers for +/ 1500 spectator capacity.
  • Provide site improvements that include parking and drainage improvements, new stadium lighting, landscaping, sidewalks, and new main entry plaza.

The Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex has been in place since December 1965 when the International Swimming Hall of Fame inducted its first class. Since then, it has played host to numerous international and national level events in aquatic sports and has had ten world records fall from swimming legends Mary T. MeagherMichael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin.

The main competition pool is currently closed and the facility will officially close April 17. The finished renovations are scheduled to finish in October 2020.

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Pedro E. Rosario
5 years ago

Yara E Freytes

Rob Richardson
5 years ago

I remember watching him swim in the late 70’s – amazing

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