NICK THIERRY (CAN)
FOR THE RECORD: FINA Official
Statistician; Founder and Publisher of SwimNews
Magazine (1974); Canadian Records Compiler (1975-present); Founder of
International Swimming Statisticians Association (1986); 1970 COMMONWEALTH
GAMES: Head Coach; Coach of university and club teams in Ontario (1961-1972).
When swimmers swim head to head in
elite international competition, their foremost goal is to beat the opposition.
Once the race is over and they glance up to the scoreboard to see their finish
place, their next thought is, "My time, did I do a personal best? Was it a
record?" This is where Nick Thierry takes over. 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 quest for
success are what every coach strives to instill in their own athletes. As a
former coach himself, Nick's unique style and perseverance, in a very unassuming
way, have contributed to his success as swimming's top record keeper and
publisher/editor of swimming's highly recognized publication, SwimNews
Born in Hungary on December 2, 1938,
Nick spent his first eight years growing up in Budapest.
He was too young to experience any of Hungary's great swimming
performances, and 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.
But 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 1964,1968
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 in Edinburgh. Two
years earlier she had won the bronze medal on the 4x100m freestyle relay at the
1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
In the late 1960s, he befriended fellow
countryman great Hall of Fame coach Stefan Hunyadfi (when Hunyadfi coached in
Ft. Wayne, Indiana) and learned a great deal from him, especially in
breaststroke. Hunyadfi coached 1968 Olympic breaststroke champion Sharon Wichman
(USA). Nick went on to coach 1977 Canadian 100m breaststroke National Champion
Judy Garay, daughter of Hall of Famer Valerie Gyenge (HUN), 1952 Olympic 400m
Nick's biggest influence as a coach was
from Hall of Famer Howard Firby (CAN). Even
though they coached rival teams, they traveled together to many competitions
including driving to Mexico City for the 1968 Olympics. Hall of Fame coach Peter
Daland (USA) had an impact on Nick, particularly in Peter's research on world
rankings from the 1920s and 1930s.
From 1961 to 1985, Nick served in
administrative capacities on Swim Ontario 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 Thlerry. "The need to know what was going
on worldwide was growing in the sport." His first major endeavor to satisfy
this need has become a Canadian and international icon - 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 264 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. As publisher, editor and
writer for the publication, Nick created a feeling of warmth and sincerity in
his writings and tried to inspire the young readers by remembering and promoting
the success stories of accomplished athletes. 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.
Beginning back in 1958 as a writer for
Bob Kiphuth's newly formed Swimming World
magazine and then for All Schoenfield when Al became editor and publisher of Swimming
World, Nick saw the need for good communication.
Today he continues to print Canada's Top Age Group (TAG) times every
month as well as Tiny Olympic Prospects (TOP) for the 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. With the initial assistance of Italy's Luigi Saini, Nick
officially began compiling FINA statistics, something he had already been doing
for the past 20 years. 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. Nick
developed a "ranking value" of each performance by an athlete. This is
calculated by taking the average of the eight fastest times ever done in an
event and giving it a value of 1000. By
doing this, events can be compared and evaluated, possibly deciding which world
record is a better performance.
At major championships (World and
European) he 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 Thierry a debt of gratitude. Swimmers live and die by the stopwatch. Nick has become the primary catalyst to keeping and using those stopwatch times for the betterment of the sport. But when all is said and done, it's Nick's coaching instincts which surpass even his statistical mind. "World rankings are just a measure," says Nick. "What really counts is performance under pressure. That is what makes a real champion. It's the swimmer who can do it in the Olympic Games with all that incredible pressure and face his or her peers and win. That is what the sport is about: excellence and head-to-head competition." Thanks to Nick Thierry, we can keep our heads screwed on when trying to sift through the countless volumes of statistics. Nick brings the statistics to life.
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