After more than 20 years as executive director of USA Swimming, during which he led the organization to an astounding 156 Olympic medals and a 100-percent increase in membership, Chuck Wielgus has announced his retirement.
Wielgus, who joined the organization in July 1997 as head of the national governing body and added duties as chief executive officer of the USA Swimming Foundation in 2004, is currently the longest-tenured chief executive in the U.S. Olympic Movement. He will retire effective Aug. 31, 2017.
“This has been a long and difficult decision because I love USA Swimming and I have always approached my role with enthusiasm and passion. It has been an honor and a privilege to walk through the doors every day at USA Swimming with our dedicated and talented staff and work in service to our athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers who comprise the membership of our wonderful organization,” Wielgus said. “I believe with all my heart that USA Swimming’s best years are ahead. I am confident that the work we have done these past two decades has established a firm foundation upon which future growth can occur.”
USA Swimming has risen to unprecedented heights under the helm of Wielgus.
The U.S. Olympic Swimming Team has topped both the gold and overall swimming medal counts at each of the five Games since 2000, earning an average of 31 medals per Games and equating to approximately 33 percent of Team USA’s total medal haul.
During Wielgus’ time as executive director, the organization’s membership has doubled to more than 400,000, while the foundation of the Club Development Division in 2001 has provided swim teams across the nation with resources and expertise.
"Swimming in the United States has never been stronger, and that is because of Chuck. He is a true sportsman, loving sport for how it makes us feel and how it brings us together,” said United States Olympic Committee Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun. “We are grateful for our successes together and look forward to seeing his good work make a difference in the lives of athletes for many years to come."
Also during Wielgus’ tenure, USA Swimming increased revenue by 600 percent, re-positioned its U.S. Olympic Team Trials into a 17,000-seat major showcase event, significantly increased the sport’s year-round network television coverage and established USA Swimming Productions.
Wielgus led the formation of the USA Swimming Foundation to provide financial support for national team athletes and provide swim lessons nationwide through the Make a Splash initiative. The program has awarded more than $4 million in grants to swim lesson providers and provided more than four million children with swim lessons over the past 12 years.
“Chuck has built USA Swimming into the best national sports federation in the world, one of excellence and intelligence and heart and, above all, character,” said Dick Ebersol, former NBC Sports & Olympics Chairman. “It’s been my honor and privilege to have Chuck as a friend, and to work together to help make the Olympic movement in America the envy of much of the rest the sporting world.”
Wielgus has been honored with several awards during his time at USA Swimming, including a 2016 National Honorary Doctorate from the United States Sports Academy. He was also awarded the first-ever Association of Chief Executives of Sport Chief Executive Leadership Award in 2015, received a Lifetime Achievement in Sport award from the El Pomar Foundation, was the 2011 recipient of the National Great Comebacks Award for his cancer survival and contributions, and was named among the 30 Most Influential People in Swimming for the 1975-2015 period.