(article below published by swimnetwork.com)
Swimming Loses Coach Ron Johnson By: Swimnetwork.com Posted: 08/08/09 Ron Johnson – swimmer and swim coach extraordinaire – died early this morning of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to informed sources. He was 77.
Johnson, described by friends as a "modern-day Renaissance man" had long suffered from bouts of depression, which had increased since a heart attack at a swim meet in 2007 and having to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. His depression deepened when his wife, Priscilla, suffered a stroke last year and since then has been undergoing rehabilitation.
Johnson was the most successful swim coach in Arizona State University history, guiding his women’s teams to national collegiate titles in 1978 and 1979, for which he was named NCAA Coach of the Year in 1979. From 1980-93 he coached the ASU men’s team, consistently finishing among the top 10 teams at the NCAA Championships. During his 14 years as the Sun Devils’ men’s coach he produced 86 All-Americans and 47 Academic All-Americans. In his full career he coached 19 national champions, 31 Olympic finalists and 14 Olympic medal winners. He also founded the Mesa Aquatic Club in 1973, placing two team members on the US Olympic team three years later. In 1968, he served as Mexico’s Olympic swim coach for the Mexico City Games, leading Mexico to its best Olympic performance ever, including its only gold medal in swimming.
Selected as the US Masters Coach of the Year in 1999, Johnson became the only coach ever to be honored as both national collegiate and national Masters coach of the year.Johnson was also a superb swimmer, earning All-American honors four times at the University of Iowa and winning a spot on the 1955 US Pan-American Games team.
It was later in life, however, that Johnson surpassed all his earlier achievements. In 1998 he became the only male Masters swimmer ever to hold world records simultaneously in all four strokes plus the individual medley. He repeated the feat two years later. Johnson set a total of 57 world records in his Masters career, was voted World Masters Swimmer of the Year three times and was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame in 2007.
An accomplished classical guitarist and artist, he recently published a book entitled “Romancing the Water,” a translation of a book he published in Spanish last year. A memorial service will be held later this week. Details will be announced on Tuesday.