Richard Quick

The swimming coach who trained Olympic champions

Richard Quick


As a college swimming coach, Richard Quick won a record 13 NCAA team titles. As head coach of the 1988, 1996, and 2000 U.S. Olympic swim teams, he led his athletes to 59 medals and shaped the careers of such stars as Janet Evans, Dara Torres, Jenny Thompson, and Summer Sanders. He died last week of an inoperable brain tumor.

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The son of a Goodyear tire salesman, Quick began swimming at age 9, said the San Francisco Chronicle. He founded the women’s swimming program at Southern Methodist University, his alma mater, then coached at Iowa State, Auburn, the University of Texas, and Stanford. At Stanford, at day’s end he would often “race out to his small convertible and sit in the parking lot until he saw some of his swimmers emerging from the locker room. Then he would ask them to push the car to get it started.” The swimmers were never sure if he needed their help, or if he was just working them harder. Whatever the truth, Quick’s “dominating” style won Stanford seven national titles, Texas five, and Auburn one.

Quick was a hard taskmaster, said the Los Angeles Times, often starting his practices at 5:30 a.m. with a wide smile on his face. During the 1980s, “he withstood charges that his training methods drove his female swimmers to extreme weight loss and eating disorders.” When some of his Stanford students “began wearing shoulder patches intended to increase stamina,” suspicions swirled that they contained illegal performance-enhancing substances. But no improprieties were ever proved. “I don’t think there’s a coach worth a damn,” he said, “who doesn’t ask himself, What could I have done better to give the athletes every opportunity to perform better?”

Elected to the Swimming Hall of Fame in 2000, Quick received its Lifetime Achievement Award in May. He is survived by his second wife, two children, and two stepchildren.

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