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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tom Hetzel Testing Himself Through The Years

Tom Hetzel Ph.D. of Texas had an incredible streak from 1967-1977 when he successfully completed 8 crossing of the English Channel in 10 years.

Heltzel, a 1980 inductee in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame wrote a book called Conquest in the English Channel. One of Tom's many memorable lines was, "Throw away the stop watch and use the calendar," which he used to coach the world's most famous pool swimming coach, Doc Counsilman, across the English Channel.

Tom estimated that he trained enough miles in the open water to circle the earth besides setting records in 18 different bodies of water. He had another prolific period between 1980-1984 when he completed eight swims around Manhattan Island.

Hetzel took to marathon swimming "to test myself", believing and proving that there is value in resisting quitting. Among his other personal beliefs and coaching gems were, "One more chance, can lead to success" and "Never allow negative words to creep into your vocabulary. Maintain a positive attitude and a positive vocabulary."

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association


  1. His book was a great inspiration and invaluable help in making my first Channel swim back in 1985 such an amazingly beautiful experience. Thanks for writing about him!

  2. Hetzel; an astonishlingly humble man, and true American legend; has left behind God's heavenly bodies of water in exchange for his wings in the sky. Surely he will set the record for most trips from heaven to earth and back.

  3. What beautiful words Joshua Ruiz, thank you
    ~from his daughter, patti

  4. He helped me become the first african american in the channel swimming assoc. record books..we swam a relay aug.13,1981...Tom was a great father...Loved his kids immensely...Mike Johnson ..Frisco,Tx

  5. I first met the great man Tom Hetzel in the local church in Dover,England. He got chatting after the service and explained his reasons for being in Dover.To attempt the Channel Swim.
    We followed Tom through his training regime and joined in towards the end for a splash around in the tide between the Harbour Piers.
    We met Tom every year for a chat and cup of tea,to catch up with his record attempts.
    Me and my brother were only 6 and 8 in 1970 and i learned to swim in Dover pool but both of us went on to be successful swimmers in the pool, lake and sea.
    Tom always encouraged us to push ourselves.He was a lovely man and a legend.
    Sadly, i have just learned of his passing and pass my condolencies on to his family and in the knowledge of wherever Tom was in the world ,he left fond memories with people like me and my parents.We still have the photos of our meet ups.

    1. Please email your photos of your meetings with Tom to headcoach@openwatersource.com, along with additional recollections, so we can write another follow-up article on his legacy. Thank you very much in advance.

    2. Hi Steve,I have contacted my brother with regards to any old photos and he has confirmed an old picture taken outside of the Catholic Church in Dover.It shows Tom ,my mother Norah(now deceased)my brother Shaun and of course myself,Andy.He also thinks there maybe some old Cine8 footage of us swimming between the Piers at Dover.
      I will contact you in due course once we have them available and maybe able to put on a CD/DVD perhaps.
      Kind Regards from England

      Andy Downing

  6. Wonderful. These snippets of history are greatly appreciated by the current and future generations of swimmers.


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