Passages: 1960 200 Butterfly Olympic Gold Medalist Mike Troy Dies at 78

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1960 Olympic gold medalist Mike Troy passed away on Friday at the age of 78. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

Mike Troy
1960 Olympian
October 3, 1940 – August 3, 2019

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Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

Mike Troy picked up the dolphin butterfly stroke where Bill Yorzyk left off and it didn’t take long for the swimming world to find out it would take some kind of a horse to beat this Troy. He carried the butterfly standard to new World and Olympic records with heroic time drops before and during the 1960 Rome Olympics.

In Rome he doubled with a second Olympic gold medal for his 200 freestyle leg of the USA’s winning 4×200 freestyle relay. Troy helped this relay unseat the Australians and the Japanese who had taken turns owning the event since 1955. The Americans won the gold medal by three seconds over silver medal winning Japan with George HarrisonDick Blick, Troy and Jeff Farrell.

Troy came up through the Park district swim program in Indianapolis and was discovered by Doc Barton and Jim Clark.  He joined Frank McKinney, Bill Barton, Bill Cass and Marty Sommers as the high school boys who won the Nationals for Clark’s Indianapolis Athletic Club team in the 1950s.  All five went on to Indiana to begin the Indiana University swimming dynasty coached by Doc Counsilman.

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Troy with Doc Counsilman. Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

Troy was the second American to win the 200 butterfly Olympic gold medal after Yorzyk won the inaugural gold in 1956. He also won the silver in the 200 fly at the 1959 Pan American Games behind fellow American Dave Gillanders and was also on the gold medal winning 4×200 free relay team.

Following his retirement as a swimmer, Mike Troy became a Navy Seal and officer decorated for distinguished and heroic action in Vietnam with a star. When he got out of the service Troy settled in the San Diego area where he split his time between real estate and coaching.

Troy was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1971.


More Background on the Life of Mike Troy

Troy began swimming at the age of eight, by 12, he was asked to train with the famed Indiana Athletic Club, swimming with the likes of Frank McKinney, Bill Barton, Bill Cass and Alan Sommers, high schoolers at the time, but all would go on to become Olympians.

Troy was offered a scholarship to Indiana University to be coached by the legendary ISHOF Coach, Doc Counsilman, following his Indiana Athletic Club teammates. But before Troy even arrived in Bloomington, he won the AAU National Championship in the 100-meter butterfly. Next up were the U.S. Nationals where he won the 200-meter butterfly in world record time and took a second gold as part of the 800-meter freestyle relay.

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Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

In August 1960, he competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials, qualifying first in the 200-meter butterfly, his signature event, while also lowering his own world record. Mike and three of his teammates from the Indiana Athletic Club and Indiana University were headed to the 1960 Olympic Games.

In Rome, as part of the U.S. Olympic team, Troy won two gold medals, while breaking world records in each event. The first gold came in his 200-freestyle leg of the USA’s winning 800-meter freestyle relay. He helped the American relay unseat the Australians and Japanese who had taken turns owning the event since 1955. His second gold medal came in the 200-meter butterfly, where he had broken the world record in the event, six consecutive times in the last 14 months, while lowering the mark by over six seconds.

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Photo Courtesy: ISHOF

Troy finished his college career by helping IU win their first Big Ten Championship in 1961. He was named Team Captain as a Senior, competing in his final collegiate meet on March 2, 1962, where he went 1:26.9 in the 100-yd Butterfly, setting an American, NCAA and Big Ten Record.

Upon graduating college, Troy became a Naval Officer and a member of the Navy Underwater Demolition/SEALS. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was nominated for the Silver Star for distinguished and heroic service during the war.

Troy found his way to San Diego after leaving the service and settled there, working as a real estate agent and swim coach. He moved around the state and after being quite successful in real estate in California, he moved to Tempe, Arizona in 1990.

Through the years, Troy had developed many champions at all levels, age-group, junior and national champions. Many of his athletes have been named to national and international teams, including four Olympic Champions, Matt Biondi being one of them.

In the mid-1990’s, Troy decided to give up coaching and start teaching swim lessons at his own swim school. Troy described it as therapy for him. In the mid-1980’s, while he was living in Walnut Creek, California, coaching high schooler, Matt Biondi, he also became involved with helping people with disabilities in the pool. He decided to build the Gold Medal Swim School in the city of Chandler, Arizona, which opened in 1996.

Troy gave back to the sport that he loved so much by serving on different committees. He was Chairman of the International Section of the Olympic Committee and served as Vice President of the American Swimming Coaches Association. He served as the National Director of the USA Paralympic Swim Team in 2004, a team that travelled to the Athens Games and won numerous medals.

In 2004, Troy was named the National Teacher of the Year from the United States Swim School Association (USSSA)
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More recently, Troy continued to focus on teaching people of all ages and disabilities, swimming, a sport that he believed could save lives.

He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)as an Honor Swimmer in December, 1971, and was the first of Doc Counsilman’s 17 Indiana swimmers to be inducted into ISHOF. Present for his induction was his roommate in San Diego, and fellow Frogman, Fred Schmidt, who flew in from Vietnam just for the occasion. Schmidt was the first frogman to reach and open both the Apollo 13 and 14 immediately after splashdown.

Troy was also inducted into the Indiana University Hall of Fame, and the Helms Arco Hall of Fame.

Watch Exclusive Interview with Mike Troy 50 years after his Gold Medal performances at room.

16 comments

  1. avatar

    Troy was not just a Naval Officer, he was a Seal who was awarded the Silver Star for bravery. They don’t just give away that award to officers. Truly a great man.

    It would be interesting for Swimming World to do an article on swimmers who became Seals. Somehow I feel the hard swimming training helps build bodies and minds, and those who have had the Star Spangled Banner played reinforces that love of country.

  2. avatar
    Chris von Saltza

    I swam on the same Olympic team with Mike. I was only 16 so I looked up to Mike and was thrilled by his accomplishments. He was a joyful and fun fellow swimmer. He obviously gave back a great deal to swimming. He will be missed.

  3. avatar
    Paige Francis McDaniel

    I swam for Mike Troy in Middle School and High School. The hardest, but the most heartfelt coach ever I swam for. He taught our team so much, and was very inspiring. His time as a Legendary Navy SEAL rubbed off on all of us. He wore a huge button on his jacket every morning workout that read – NO WHINING! He was a joker at times, but you definitely knew when he meant business. We actually had Hell-Weeks during Christmas Break that were grueling, but we all got threw it together as a team. One memorable New Years Eve workout 92 X 100 Butterfly to close out 1992 and ring in the New Year. I don’t remember anyone quitting or ringing the bell. Another memorable practice I can remember – It was another grueling set, and I noticed one of my teammates sitting at Mike Troy’s table/desk that he had at the side of the pool. Then all of a sudden another teammate and after a few more laps a few more teammates were out of the pool sitting next to Mike Troy. So I had had it! I finally got out of the pool to see why everyone was sitting around our coach. I walked up to his desk and sat down with everybody else, and realized Mike Troy was telling Vietnam War stories. He had us captivated. Talk about life lessons and teaching us how to Never Never Never Give Up! Thank You Mike Troy! You taught me how to the the “Strongest Me” and to Never Quit!

    • avatar
      Matthew Potter

      Oh God I remember the 92 x 100 butterfly workout. It was a monster but you are right, all of us had a little Troy in us. That button was everything and when someone would start he would point at it or say “what’s this say”. He was the best and when I see the success of all those that trained under him, you realize he instilled that in us all along with other influences.

    • avatar
      Molly O’Connell Smith

      Paige – Thanks for sharing about the “No Whining” button. I’d totally forgotten about that. I’ll never forget his amazing skills at chucking a kick board; sending us off to swim a “timed 3,000” whenever he wanted some peace and quiet or making us swim 50 meters underwater without taking a breath. I was only in sixth grade so I was in the slow lane and felt pretty intimidated by him but I definitely learned how dig down deep and that not everything that hurts harms.

  4. avatar
    Donna

    I was a 13 year old Olympic Teammate of Mike Troy. He inspired me to continue to train for four more years in order to reach my goal of winning Olympic gold-medals. His favorite saying to me was “don’t let it go to your head.” I hung his sports illustrated cover up in my room with his quote “ hurt pain and agony “ which he said was his training motto. He named me sweet pea and sent me an Indiana sweat
    Shirt which I wore when being interviewed by Jim McKay on National TV. He also started a campaign to have those of us who had broken a world record pass on a trophy or silver tray to a current American world record holder. I sent one to him but unfortunately USA Swimming did not want to adopt the program. Mike sent mine back a few months ago with a note expressing his disappointment. I was disappointed as well. He was an honorable inspiring person and I will miss him dearly.
    Donna de Varona

    • avatar
      Brian R Tysick

      Donna- you were great for Mike. You brought out a soft side in him that I had never seen before. Thank you for being part of his life and also thank you for the great career that was also an influence among many that Mike coached. He was always generous in complimenting fellow Olympians- but you were special at that time of his life.

  5. avatar
    Fred Schmidt

    Mike was a very close friend and mentor of mine for many years beginning with my senior year in high school in 1961 and for the next 20+ years.
    I have so many wonderful and funny memories of those times and remember distinctly when I was going through Hell Week at BUD/S “why did I ever let Mike talk me into going in to UDT/SEAL team training just so I could meet Capt. O’Drain’s 2 beautiful 20 year old daughters”. His other very wise words of encouragement to me just after getting my law license was that I needed to join the Teams to ” get drunk and run naked for 5 years to learn what life was like since I had spent so much time of the past 12 years just swimming.” It was just classic Troy wisdom and his mentoring was invaluable for the rest of my life.
    God will bless him.

    Fred Schmidt

  6. avatar
    Bryce Pruett

    Mike Troy was my childhood swimming idol and a mentor. He was 6 years older the me and I swam with him at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. (He ran over me a few times during practices.) Since he was older he would come by the house and pick me up on the way to the early morning practices at the old Broadripple Park in Indianapolis with Doc. Years later, while he was coaching the Aqua Bears at the meet in Indianapolis, I took a picture of Mike with our son, Troy!
    “Peanut”

  7. avatar

    MIKE INSPIRED AND ENHEARTENED MANY. JIM DIEZ

  8. avatar
    Graham Tysick (McLintock)

    Mike had a heart of gold and a way of teaching that would transfer from the pool to life in general. I swam for him in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. During hard times, he gave me a place to live in his beach house in IB and full use of his 1960 VW bug to get to workouts and high school. He taught me it takes hard work and commitment to attain your goals. He was firm but fair. He had an awesome sense of humor. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without his influence and shining example. The world has lost a great champion.

  9. avatar
    Brian R Tysick (McLintock)

    Mike Troy will be forever an influencer in my life. He trained us hard but the reward days were worth every minute of the grueling work outs. I remember the awful punishment for goofing off during practice- one weeks worth of butterfly non-stop at both evening and morning practices and the 3 hour Saturday/Sunday practices. I loved him as a coach and friend. He was hilarious and hard at the same time. His compassion for others was real and deep. Not much has been said about him being selected as the Olympic coach for the games that the US boycotted in Russia. That was one of his big goals of life. He made it on paper but due to things out of his hands, did not make it physically to the games. I also remember the unforgettable moments prior to work outs at the Coronado amphibious base and watching the seal teams going through hell in the pool. Great lessons of life he allowed us to see. The world lost a great soul in Mike, but his legend lives on in all of his former swimmers and friends.

  10. avatar

    Mike Troy is my first cousin. He and his brother Jim were our family heroes. He was raised by his mother because his dad died when Mike was 4 years old. Aunt Helen worked as a secretary for $17.00 a week. Mike and Jim always had jobs to earn some spending money. They delivered newspapers every morning before school. They mowed lawns and painted garages. They were lifeguards at the swimming pool. When they weren’t lifeguarding, they worked in the bath house. Our family would attend the public park swim meets to see him compete. He swam for Ellenberger Park, our local pool. He was heavy set as a young boy but swimming got him into great shape. The coaches at the Indianapolis Athletic Club took notice of his times and offered him a chance to swim there. Aunt Helen, his mom, was concerned because she didn’t have enough money to pay for his membership. The coaches explained that wouldn’t be a problem. But Aunt Helen and his brother Jim were never members of the club. I saw him swim at the AAU nationals in 1958. They were held in Indianapolis at the Broad Ripple Park pool. He won the 200 yard Butterfly. The national press was stunned that a local high school boy beat the nation’s best swimmers. His high school, Scecina Memorial, didn’t have a swim team or even a pool. He was the only student from our school ever to win an Olympic Gold Medal, and yet he never won a high school letter and never got to wear the coveted letter sweater. Everyone talks about what a great coach and motivator he was. I only knew him as my older cousin. In 1961, I graduated from 8th grade. Michael had just returned from a swimming tour of Japan. He brought me a 35mm Canon camera, with an electric eye lens. He paid $35 for it in Japan. How he remembered to buy something for one of his cousins, or where he got $35, I’ll never know. To this day, it was the greatest gift I ever received. I have been hooked on photography ever since. During 8th grade, my grade school football team traveled to Chicago to play a boys club team. Each member of my team was assigned a member of the other team to stay with. The boy I was assigned to was named Roger Tyrell. He lived in River Forest across the street from Rosary College. He took me to his brother’s room where I would be spending the night. I had never been away from home in my life. I walked in the room to set down my duffel bag. On the wall of the bedroom was a picture of Mike Troy ! He was Emmett Tyrell’s hero. I stood there and realized for the first time that Mike was not just my hero. He had a national following. Mike and Jim Troy are now both gone. Believe me when I say, the world is a much better place because of these two great men.

    • avatar
      Brian Tysick

      Awesome story! Thanks for sharing it with all of us who admired and loved him.

  11. avatar
    Art Gramer

    God bless this man who modeled for me. And so many others what it is to be a champion in life as well as the pool.
    His legacy of integrity will live on in each of us, to whom the name Mike Troy is remembered and respected.

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