Richard Burns (USA)
Honor Masters Swimmer (2010)
INTERNATIONAL HIGHLIGHTS (SWIMMER): World Points – 663, Pre-1986 points – 23, Total Points – 686; Since 1981, he has competed in seven age groups (35-39 through 65-69); 37 FINA MASTERS WORLD RECORDS.
If there is a common thread to Richard Burns’ swimming career, it has been the opportunity to swim on great teams with great swimmers.
Rich grew up in Chicago. His family had a cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan where he spent every summer on the beach. Swimming to the sand bar, which was usually only 25 yards from shore, were his earliest swimming practices.
When he entered New Trier High School in 1957 he followed his best friend to the swim team tryouts and just managed to make the team. That New Trier team emerged as one of the best high school swim team ever assembled. In his senior year, they placed third in the AAU Nationals behind only Southern California and Indiana. Rich, however, was a ‘C’ team swimmer through the better part of his four years. A breakthrough swim mid-senior year earned him a 10th place All-American ranking in the 100 back but as the third fastest backstroker on the team, he never swam in a big meet.
He was recruited to Indiana University by Doc Counsilman to join a team comprised of that era’s swimming superstars. Olympic Champions, World Record holders, and All-Americans were his teammates, roommates and fraternity brothers. But despite these stellar influences, Rich never achieved personal greatness.
Masters offered the chance to excel beyond what he had realized as a youth. In 1976 he was invited to drop by a local Masters meet. The lure of the pool was compelling. Although he hadn’t swum a competitive stroke in over ten years, he borrowed a suit and deck entered the meet. Though the race wasn’t pretty he was hooked. He joined coach Marie McSweeney’s Tamalpais Aquatic Masters program in San Rafael, California and has been there ever since.
Rich set his first World Records in 1983. Since then he has appeared on the Top 10 list for 23 of the next 25 years. He has set 37 FINA Masters World Records, 22 long course meters and 15 short course meters. He has also been a part of 16 World Record setting relays. Rich’s signature stroke is the backstroke but he has also set four I.M. and one butterfly records. He was named one of Swimming World magazine’s top six male Masters in 2008 and 2009.
He credits the camaraderie of his teammates and the quality of the competitors in his age group for his motivation and success.