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by Kristina Henry

April 22, 2020

Thompson has served his LMSC since 1983, one year after joining U.S. Masters Swimming

Like many high school and college swimmers, Michigan Masters member Skip Thompson’s competitive swimming days ended after he graduated.

Well, for a short time.

In 1979, some of his friends suggested he get into Masters swimming. He held off while his wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer, was undergoing chemotherapy. After she passed away in 1981, Thompson started swimming again the next year, which proved to be therapeutic as he dealt with the loss of his wife.

“I was only 29 years old when my wife died and was going through a hard time,” Thompson says. “The economy wasn’t doing well, and I had changed jobs.”

Thompson found a home in USMS and developed lifelong relationships through his swimming, coaching, and volunteering, which he begun just one year after joining U.S. Masters Swimming.

Because of his extensive volunteer service at the local and national level, Thompson has received this year’s Capt. Ransom J. Arthur M.D. Award, which is given annually to a volunteer who has done the most to further the objectives of Masters Swimming.

“This is the most important award I have ever received in my life,” Thompson says. “It spans almost 40 years of me being a member, competitive swimmer, coach, volunteer, event host, officer both nationally and locally. The people that I have met through the years are like family to me, and there are many like me that have over 40 years in this organization. I will cherish this for the rest of my life and will keep on supporting the organization as long as I am breathing and living on Earth."

Thompson began volunteering when his fellow swimmers needed help at a meet and hasn’t stopped since, helping the Masters Swimming community for nearly four decades. He’s been a meet director for 94 meets, at the local, state, and zone level. He enjoys the camaraderie, and jokes he’ll retire when he gets to 100 meets.

The self-described history buff is a collector of all things Masters swimming. His memory for swimming records, names, and times is legendary, and he even used to tape every meet—USMS and the Olympics—and bring the videos to the annual meeting.

“Surprisingly, everyone loved it and watched during breaks,” he says.

When his club needed a coach in 1984, Thompson stepped in, staying until 2008. He was the USMS Coach of the Year in 2000 and received the USMS Kerry O’Brien Coaches Award in 2010, and has also served on the Coaches Committee. Thompson became a Level 4 coach in 2015.

His first annual meeting was in 1988, and he has served on almost every committee. Currently, he serves as the chair of the History and Archives Committee, and is considered a walking encyclopedia by his fellow volunteers.

Thompson, who also received the USMS Dorothy Donnelly Service Award in 1999 and the USMS June Krauser Communications Award in 2014, has also served on USMS’s Board of Directors from 1992 to 1999 as the Great Lakes Zone representative and was a vice president on the board from 2015 to 2019.

“Skip’s contributions and accomplishments are numerous, but what is so impressive is that he has never faltered in his support of USMS programs at all levels,” Oregon Masters member and 2003 recipient of the RJA Award Sandi Rousseau wrote in her letter of endorsement for Thompson. “Skip is truly an ambassador for our sport and has the best interests of USMS in his heart. In all of his contributions over many years, Skip has demonstrated the very essence of what this award recognizes and is a very deserving recipient.”

Thompson is awed by receiving the award.

“I am so honored by the Ransom J. Arthur Award,” Thompson says. “You’ve got to support this organization. It’s come a long way since I started when it was purely volunteer-based. Volunteers built this organization and have laid the groundwork for others to build on in the future.”


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