April 4, 2011
Many of you already know about Snik. For those of you who do not, the article below lays it out very well. Snik was a great, great swimmer, beloved coach, and most of all a devoted husband and father. The club coaching discussed in the article was the former Wolverine Aquatics. Snik had a dream of meshing his team, Ann Arbor Swim Club and Club Wolverine into a single team. His dream was realized within 9 months of his death. Many have come, and gone since that time. CW remains a great swim club and it is up to all of us who stay to keep Snik's dream alive. Part of that dream continues this coming weekend at the Grand Prix meet named in his memory. Plenty of CW swimmers will be in action against some of the best competition in the U.S. Should be fun and exciting to watch. Go CW!!
Namesnik had a passion for swimming, family
The Eric Namesnik Michigan Grand Prix will be held April 8-10 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The meet is named in honor of two-time Olympian Eric Namesnik, who swam for and later coached at Michigan before passing away in a tragic automobile accident in 2006. Here, his wife Kirsten recounts his passion for swimming, coaching and his family.
By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
When Eric Namesnik came to the University of Michigan, he knew he would never leave.
He had found home, and a place that loved him back. He swam there, and delivered Olympic medals. Even when he was passed over for the head coaching job – many believed he would get it hands down when Bob Bowman left – he stayed and coached club. His wife Kirsten Silvester Namesnik said his love for Michigan resided deep inside his soul.
“Snik loved Michigan, almost above all else,” said Kirsten, who was a college statistics professor at Michigan, who now lives with their two children, Austin and Madison, in her native home of the Netherlands. “I think he is probably still floating around there somewhere. He loved Ann Arbor and he loved U of M. It is probably why we stayed around the area after he lost his job. His dream was to become the head coach at Michigan, to follow in Jon’s footsteps. I think he would have been really good at it. Unfortunately he never got the chance to prove it.”
Namesnik became one of the great young
up-and-coming coaches in the U.S. working with Jon Urbanchek at
Michigan. He recruited future Olympic greats like Peter Vanderkaay
and Chris Thompson, and scores of others.
But it was his love for coaching swimmers that made him so unforgettable to those in his care.
“I think anyone who loves to teach and has a passion for swimming makes a great coach,” Kirsten said on Sunday. “Of course he had an awesome example in Jon. We all loved and respected that man. We learned so much from him, and Snik was great at passing along his knowledge, mixed in with his own doses of experience.”
The fact that his swimmers admired and cared for Eric so much also contributed to his coaching success.
“He was a likeable guy, so he got a long with many of his swimmers,” Kirsten said. “In the beginning it was a bit strange, to be coaching swimmers you used to practice and race with, but everyone adjusted quickly. Swimming was his passion and after he retired from the sport, coaching was the way to stay connected with it. He loved every aspect of it and I believe the children he coached the last year and a half of his life felt that as well.”
Kirsten says it’s not far between days and weeks that she hears from those swimmers to this day.
“As an assistant coach, he was loved by many swimmers,” Kirsten said. “I am still in touch with some of the swimmers he coached.”
He was also a talented swimmer, to which
his many Olympic and international medals attest.
“He knew at a very young age that he wanted to go to the Olympics and that he needed to work really hard to achieve that,” Kirsten said. “After the ’92 Olympics, his goal was Olympic gold in Atlanta. So he needed to work more, harder, faster. At that same moment (Tom) Dolan entered the picture.”
The two children they had – shortly before his tragic death – are starting to grow up. They were so young when their father died, Kirsten makes sure they know what an amazing man he was, and she knows that their Daddy lives on in both of them each and every day.
“The kids were – and are still – very young,” Kirsten said. “Only my oldest, Austin, who is currently 9 and is now swimming a bit, remembers things about his Daddy. My youngest, Madison (now 7), was only 2 when Snik had his accident and only knows things about her father from photos and videos that we play sometimes. Of course I tell them stories all the time, but really knowing what type of person he was? They are still pretty young for that. I just want them to know he loved them like no other, and he was super-duper proud of them. I am sure he would be proud now too, as they are achieving their own things.”
While his spirit is in Michigan always – and especially this week – Kirsten Namesnik knows her incredible Olympian-husband is with her and her children halfway around the world. And always will be. His medals meant a lot to him, until he won a family that put him on the top podium of life.
“In the beginning, (his medals meant) everything,” Kirsten said. “But as most Olympic medalists will say, life goes on. His children were much more important to him later on. He dreamed about winning Olympic medals from an early age. So he was super happy with his medals. But nothing makes you more proud and happy than your own children, and he knew that.”
The Eric Namesnik Michigan Grand Prix will be webcast live, right here on unsaswimming.org. To watch the webcast, check results, view photos and catch up on daily news from the meet, go to usaswmming.org/michigangrandprix.