Richard Foster, president of the Aquatic Capital of America board, has announced the first 15 inductees to the group’s new Hall of Fame.
The inaugural class will be honored with a ceremony and dinner on Aug. 25 at the Pete Archer Rowing Center at Marine Stadium. Organizers say the aim is to include the physical Hall of Fame in the new Belmont Plaza Olympic Pool when it is built.
The Aquatic Capital of America Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed in 2008 to promote Long Beach as a destination for visitors seeking to participate in the myriad of aquatic activities offered in our city, honor and support our aquatic athletes, and promote water safety and education.
Here are the inductees.
Diver — Pat McCormick. McCormick attended Wilson High School, Long Beach City College and Long Beach State. She is the only female diver in the history of the Olympics to win the “double-double,” winning gold medals in the platform and springboard events in two consecutive Olympic Games. Her first two gold medals were won in 1952 and the second pair in 1956. In 1956, she won the Sullivan Award for the best amateur athlete in the country and was the first woman inducted into the U.S. Swimming Hall of Fame.
Rower — Joan Van Blom. Van Blom attended Wilson High School and Long Beach State. She was a three-time Olympian. She won a silver medal in 1976, becoming the first American woman to earn an Olympic rowing medal. She also won a silver medal in 1984, after missing the 1980 Olympics due to the boycott. Van Blom died last year after a battle with brain cancer.
Rower and Coach — John Van Blom. Van Blom attended Wilson High School, Long Beach City College and Long Beach State. John won a scholastic National Title in 1963, while attending Wilson High School. He participated in three Olympics as an athlete (1968, 1972 and 1976) and one as the Head Women’s Olympic Coach (1984).
Rower — Tom McKibbon. Tom attended Long Beach City College and Long Beach State. As an athlete McKibbon participated in the1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics and was the head or assistant U.S. Olympic coach from 1976 to 1988.
Multi Watersports Coach — Pete Archer. Archer was a pioneer in the sport of rowing. He was the original coach for the Long Beach Rowing Club in the 1930s and he coached many national champions. In addition, Archer was involved in coaching diving, swimming and water polo. In 1985 he was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame as a contributor. The”Grand Old Man of Rowing” died in 2001.
Swimmer — Tim Shaw. Shaw attended Wilson High School and Long Beach State and was a member of the Long Beach Swim Club. A rare two sport Olympian, Tim earned a silver medal in water polo and a silver medal in swimming. In 1975, Tim won world titles in the 200, 400 and 1,500 freestyle events and was selected as the Sullivan Award winner. In 1974 and 1975, he was selected World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine.
Swimmer/Coach — Klaus Barth. Klaus attended Long Beach State, where he swam for legendary coach Don Gambril. He was a member of the German Olympic Swim Team in 1968 and held the German record for the 200 breaststroke. Barth also was a world-class triathlete, finishing fourth in the Hawaii Ironman competition at the age of 37. But Klaus’s real mark on aquatics was as a coach. He led Wilson High School to 25 consecutive Moore League Championships and led his Shore Aquatic water polo teams to several national championships. Klaus died in 2006.
Swimmer — Hans Fassnacht. Fassnacht attended Long Beach State, where he won two NCAA titles in swimming. While a 49er, he broke a world record in the 400 meter freestyle. He also set a world record in the 200 butterfly and won a silver medal at the 1972 Olympic Games. During his career, Fassnacht set five American records. In 1992, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Swimmer — Susie Atwood. Atwood attended Millikan High School and Long Beach City College. She is a two-time Olympian (1968 and 1972) who at the Olympic Games in Munich won a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke and a silver medal in the 200 backstroke. She held world records in those two events from 1969 to 1972 and during her career, won 23 national titles. Atwood was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1999.
Swimming Coach — Don Gambril. Gambril coached swimming at Long Beach State from 1967 to 1971, where he led the 49ers to a NCAA College Division Championship and two fifth place finishes at the NCAA Championships in 1970 and 1971. He served as Assistant Olympic Swim Coach in 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980 and was the head Olympic Swim Coach in 1984. Gambrill also coached the highly regarded Phillips 66 Swim team in Long Beach, leading that squad to two National AAU Championships. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1983.
Water Skier — H. Lee Kirk grew up in Belmont Shore attending local schools and ultimately graduated from Long Beach State. He was an exceptional water skier, including his specialty, “barefoot waterskiing.” He held the world record for speed three different times and pushed the sport to national recognition. His world record of 110.02 mph still stands under the rules of the National Drag Boat Association and it is doubtful it will ever be broken. Kirk died in 2011 at the age of 53.
Water Polo Coach — Monte Nitzkowski. Monte was a long-time head coach at Long Beach City College, where his teams won many State Championships. He also was a long-time U.S. National Team head coach and was the Olympic Coach in 1972 (Bronze Medal), 1980 (boycott year) and 1984 (Silver Medal). Nitzkowski is considered to be the most successful water polo coach in U.S. history. He has been inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame.
Water Polo Player — Jody Campbell. Campbell grew up in Long Beach and attended Wilson High School. He attended Stanford University, leading the Cardinals to four consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships. He was named to three Olympic teams: 1980 (boycott), 1984 (Silver Medal) and 1988 (Silver Medal).
Water Polo Player — Ron Crawford. Crawford attended Long Beach City College and Long Beach State College. He was an AAU All-American nine times and played on the U.S. Olympic team in 1960, 1964 and 1968. He has been inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame and International Water Polo Hall of Fame. Crawford died in 2005.
Water Polo Player — Maureen O’Toole. O'Toole was a pioneer in women’s water polo. When she attended Wilson High School, there was no girls’ water polo, so she played on the boys’ team and at Long Beach City College, she played on the men’s team. She was selected as the World Water Polo Player of the year six times. When Women’s water polo was added to the Olympic program in 2000, she came out of retirement and helped the U.S. squad win the silver medal.