(Reuters) - Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming for nearly two decades, died on Sunday in Colorado Springs of complications from colon cancer, the organization announced. He was 67.
Wielgus joined USA Swimming as executive director in 1997 and presided over a successful period in which the nation’s elite swimmers dominated international competition.
There were 156 podium performances by American swimmers in five Olympics during the tenure of Wielgus, including 16 gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games. No other nation won more than three golds in Rio.
“This is an extremely sad day, as we lost... one of the finest men I have ever had the pleasure to work alongside,” said Jim Sheehan, chair of the USA Swimming board of directors.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun also paid tribute to Wielgus.
“During his tenure at USA Swimming, American swimmers enjoyed more success and more support than ever before. He had a passion for his work and cared deeply about sport. Chuck fought a long and hard battle with amazing grace and optimism, and will be missed.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Clare Fallon