Nick Thierry (CAN)
Honor Contributor (2001)
For 47 years, Nick Thierry has been writing about swimming. The days when he is not writing, he is accumulating all the statistics of swims around the world, to present to international media sources, in the quest to keep up with the statistics of the sport.
As a writer for Al Schoenfield’s Swimming World Magazine, Nick saw the need for good communication in the sport, and the value of a swimming magazine to accomplish that goal. Throughout his career in swimming he never wavered from that thought.
Born in Hungary on December 2, 1938, Nick spent his first eight years growing up in Budapest. In 1948 his family moved to Havana, Cuba, where his father had been transferred. He worked for Wagon-Lits, the international sleeping car company. Nick swam competitively for three years while in Havana and another three years in Toronto, Canada while studying at the University of Toronto, obtaining a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1964. For the next four years he worked in an architect’s office.
Nick’s love for being around the swimming pool was paramount. In 1961, at the University of Toronto, he served as assistant swimming coach. For the next 21 years, he coached at Toronto and surrounding teams, placing swimmers on the Canadian Olympic teams of 1963, 1968 and 1972. He was Canadian head coach of two international tours as well as for the 1970 Commonwealth Games team which competed in Edinburgh, Scotland. His swimmer Angela Coughlan won the 100m freestyle gold medal. Two years earlier she had won the bronze medal on the 4x100m freestyle relay at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Nick coached 1977 Canadian 100m breaststroke National Champion Judy Garay, daughter of Hall of Famer Valerie Gyenge (HUN), 1952 Olympic 400m freestyle champion.
From 1961 to 1985, Nick served in administrative capacities on Swim Ontario’s Board of Directors, the Canadian Swimming Coaches Association (chairman, secretary) and the Swim Canada National Board of Directors.
During his coaching career Nick first saw the need to keep swimming statistics. “It was a very effective training tool for my swimmers,” said Thierry. “The need to know what was going on worldwide was growing in the sport.” Thus, he organized the formation of Swim Canada, Canada’s monthly magazine publication. Now known as SwimNews, it has a circulation of 4,000 copies per month with over 312 editions since 1974. It is filled with all the local, regional and national news of Canada as well as stories on international events and athletes. Nick was publisher, editor and writer. Perhaps his most favorite article was the January 1988 article “Never a Wasted Stroke,” announcing world record holder and Olympic champion Alex Baumann’s retirement. His best stroke technique description was “Victor Davis on Breaststroke” published in 1989, just four months before Victor’s tragic death. As one of the world’s leading publications, SwimNews not only contains human interest stories but also times and rankings of swimmers on a national and international level. He prints Canada’s Top Age Group (TAG) Times every month as well as Tiny Olympic Prospects (TOP) for little kids. FINA’s world rankings are read by the older kids and their coaches.
It was Nick’s quest to locate and print every available meet and race time that lead to the formation of the International Swimming Statisticians Association (ISSA) in 1986 at the Madrid World Championships. Beginning in 1992, statistics in SwimNews were supplemented by printing monthly FINA world rankings and yearly short and long course FINA annuals. Originally, record keeping was done manually with Nick personally hand typing each line of statistics. With the introduction of the fax machine, records and dates could instantly be transmitted and received for publication. Then with the PC and computer software programs, data became instantly transmitted and printable on demand. Where it used to take two and one-half weeks to prepare an issue of SwimNews, now it would take two days.
At major championships (World and European) Nick has provided extended start lists on the finalists in each event for broadcast and print media to use. These include biographical facts on each finalist, chronological record list, all time ranking, etc. Since 1989, Nick has worked with FINA Press Commission Chairman Camillo Cametti, traveling extensively to world events.
The swimming community owes Nick a debt of gratitude. Sorting through the seemingly endless volumes of numbers and times, Nick makes order out of chaos and assures every swimmer that his or her time will be accurately placed in the pecking order of performances. Nick’s no-nonsense approach to his work, his coolness under pressure and his unique style and perseverance, in a very unassuming way, have contributed to his success as publisher/editor of SwimNews and as swimming’s top record keeper. Nick was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2001 as Honor Contributor for his contribution to the sport.