Titans of the swimming world are paying their condolences to Olympic and former University of Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek who left for his heavenly abode. Urbanchek, regarded as one of swimming’s greatest coaches, passed away at the age of 87 on May 9 2024 after being admitted to the hospital earlier this year. The Hall of Famer coach influenced the careers of many competitive swimmers, including three-time Olympian, Katie Ledecky, who achieved success in her Olympic debut at the age of 15 and recently received the Medal of Freedom from the POTUS.

Ledecky described how swimming for Jon was revolutionary as he noticed potential in swimmers even before they realized it. Her message goes on to express her gratitude to the veteran coach.

Katie Ledecky’s heartfelt tribute to the late Jon Urbanchek


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Jon Urbanchek departed peacefully on Thursday night in Fullerton, California, surrounded by his wife Melanie and family; reported the SwimSwam. Urbanchek was an influential figure in American competitive swimming, having served as a special coach for the Olympic Team, as well as a coach for the World Championship, Pan American Games, and other US International Team. After learning of his death, seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky shared a carousel of photos on Instagram.


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A post shared by Katie Ledecky (@katieledecky)

Ledecky captioned the post, “It is hard to express how much Jon Urbanchek has meant to me since I first met him in 2012. He was my coach on the 2012 Olympic team and he has been a coach, a mentor and a friend since then.” One of America’s favorite Olympic swimmer and 21-time world champion, Katie Ledecky made her Olympic debut at the age of 15 in the 2012 London Olympics.

She won her first gold medal in the 800m freestyle, robbing 2011’s defending world champion Kate Ziegler off of her title. Ledecky’s victory in the 800m freestyle finals was achieved in merely 8:14.63. Her time became the second-fastest performance in history, trailing only Rebecca Adlington’s world record of 8:14.10 from 2008. She also eclipsed the 1989 posed American record of 8:16.22 by Janet Evans.


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Katie Ledecky was coached by Yuri Sugiyama, who served as her age group coach at Nation’s Capital in Maryland. Sugiyama played an important role in her initial development until Bruce Gemmell of the Delaware Aquatic Club took up coaching duties. Gemmell, influenced by Jon Urbanchek’s teaching style, defined it as a combination of science, art, witchcraft, and intuition. Jon Urbanchek’s influence extended beyond Ledecky’s remarkable career, as he made substantial contributions to the larger swimming community, notably during the Olympics.

The man behind America’s Olympic medal haul

Jon Urbanchek served as US Olympic coach from 1988 to 2004 and special assistant in 2008 and 2012. He coached several Olympic medalists, including Mike Barrowman, Gustavo Borges, and Tom Dolan. He coached 44 Olympians to nearly 20 medals, with other notable accomplishments.


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Additionally, the International Swimming Hall of Fame inducted Urbanchek in 2008, and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame followed suit in 2009. Jon Urbanchek, an immigrant from Communist Hungary during the 1956 Soviet invasion, introduced revolutionary training strategies, stroke improvements, and racing strategies that have since been widely followed. He produced a significant global effect on the sport of swimming.

The life and legacy of Jon Urbanchek stand as a powerful example of overcoming adversity through sheer determination and an unwavering commitment to excellence. His demise leaves a void that will be keenly felt by all those whose paths he crossed during his career, transformed the sport on a global scale.