January 24, 2006 by

Eric Namesnik


Categories: Sports

enamesnik.jpgEric J. Namesnik, an Olympic swimmer who took home two silver medals, died on Jan. 11 from injuries he sustained in a car accident. He was 35.
Namesnik, who was known to his friends as “Snik,” earned a bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate from the University of Michigan, and swam for the Wolverines from 1989 to 1993. For the next seven years, he worked as an assistant coach to UM’s swim team, training 11 Olympians and helping the Wolverines win three Big Ten championships.
The Butler, Pa., native twice represented the United States on the Olympic stage. He won a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley at the 1992 Barcelona Games, and another silver in the same event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Namesnik came incredibly close to winning the gold, but was defeated by Tom Dolan, his long-time rival and Michigan teammate, by 35-hundredths of a second.
The first American to swim under 4 minutes, 15 seconds in the four-stroke medley event, Namesnik was ranked No. 1 in the world in 1991 and 1993. He also won silver medals in the 200- and 400-meter medley at the 1991 world championships in Perth, and a bronze medal in the 400-meter medley at the 1994 world meet in Rome.
After retiring from competition, Namesnik earned a master’s degree in educational leadership at Eastern Michigan University, and volunteered as the assistant coach to the men’s swim team. In his spare time, he worked as the head coach for the Wolverine Aquatics Swim Club.
“His work ethic, toughness and dedication were the embodiment of an Olympian, and they made him one of the most admired competitors the sport of swimming has seen,” said Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming’s executive director. “It is devastating to lose such an important member of the Olympic family. His legacy will live on through his contributions to the sport as an athlete, coach and volunteer.”
Namesnik was critically injured in an accident on Jan. 7 when his car hit an icy patch on Interstate 94, just outside Ann Arbor, Mich., and spun out of control. The vehicle crossed the median and was struck by an oncoming car. It took rescue workers two hours to extricate him from the wreckage. Doctors at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti, Mich., placed Namesnik in a medically induced coma to reduce the swelling around his brain, but tests later showed he had no brain activity. At that point, his family made the decision to take him off life support and allow his organs to be donated.

25 Responses to Eric Namesnik

  1. Sarah

    My name is Sarah, and he use to be one of my amazing coaches on Wolverine Aquiatics!! He was one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. Yes, I am only 11 years old, but he was very special to me and the whole team. We moved away from Michigan a little while ago and the last thing he said to me was, “Sarah, one day I will see your name up there.” I will never forget him.

  2. Kate

    Hi my name is Kate and Eric was very specile to me. Even though I hardly new him he was always nice to me every time I saw him. He was also funny.

  3. Maggie

    My name is Maggie. One day for school my teacher told us that we had to do a monument on someone we admire. We also had to tell why we admire them. Even though I never met Eric, he was the one I chose to do my monument on.
    God bless Eric’s family.

  4. Katie Williams

    Hi My Name is Katie Eric was a contact for me when Micheal Phelps Came to Michagan and when i told Snik i was a Special olympic Swimmer in my e mail i told him i had big Dreams and Even though i never got a Chance to Meet Snik he told me one Day he hopes to see my name on the International world games for Special olympics and i smiled.. Eric namesnik is someone who i’ll never forget because of his passion for the sport of swimming because it was snik that always kept me going… one night after i heard about his passing i got a 30.68 on the 25 Fly for Snake Drills and i smiled because i knew snik had to be watching out for me. Eric Since i didn’t get the chance to meet u and shake hands with you i can tell you this when i get to Heaven we’ll have are own team to coach.. God Bless The Snik Family Durring this time
    Katie Williams
    South Bend Indiana

  5. John Alley

    I met Eric 24 years ago at Skwim swimming camp outside of Olean, New York. Eric was an “animal”. He could work harder than anyone else. I was not surprised to see him at the Olympics and was glad to see his hard work pay off. He was a great kid and I am sure that he was a great father and husband and I am sorry for your loss.

  6. Darren B

    Growing up Eric and I were on rival high school swim teams. One year we were room mates at a swim camp at Clarion University. He was fierce in training and in competition, yet out of the water he was always fun to be around. It was obvious back then that he was a world class swimmer and it is great to read that he became even more than that – he became a world class teacher and mentor to so many youngsters out there. Eric I am sure your family and all those you have touched will continue to carry your torch!

  7. Allison

    Hi i’m Allison and Eric was my coach for the Gold team. He always pushed me and everyone else hard. I remeber one day when i came to Slauson for practice and it was Plantium there and Gold at Mac. When he saw me he said ” ready to swim?”. I told him you know i’m in the wrong place and he said yeah but we can make room. So he gave me own practice and made sure i understood everything and showed me all the techniques. I was so very fourtante to get that time with him to help me induvidally. I hope he has touched many others like me tohelp them get better, Rest in Peace Eric.

  8. Fernando

    Eric and I were friends back in college and we lived on the same hall in the dorms. I remember all those guys; Barrowman, Wunderlich, and of course Snik. While they were all incredibly competetive Eric was the one that seemed to be the most relaxed out of the pool. He was not only an incredible swimmer, but also an exemplary person. He will be missed by all.

  9. Laura

    Snik was my coach for Wolverine Aquatics. I only swam with him for 2 months in the Platinum group but he touched my life forever. He had a way of making every swimmer on that team feel special. I wish that i could have gotten to know Snik better. He is missed very much.
    love Laura

  10. Katie Williams

    Hi My name is Katie Williams, Im From Notre Dame Indiana When i heard about Snik’s death i was deeply sadden because of his passion for the sport of swimming it’s like his stop watch will never stop going Snik to me always had good advice for swimmers he sent me micheal phelps Autograph thanks snik

  11. K-Will

    Snik- I know You can hear me on this I wanna say thank you for your words of Wisdom you sent me in that e mail i haven’t forgotten about those words of wisdom you gave me. You have touched my heart and my life i wanna say i miss you and i had dreams of Shaking hands with you.. I miss you but i know my swim season will be in your honor this year i wanna say To The Snik family Your in My Prayers durring this time.. and to Snik i know your watchin out for me i miss you Erik and thanks for Sending me the Autograph signed by Phelps or passing him a note from me to him.. i mean it.. and to the Snik Family i will get one of those Swim For Snik Braclets this summer.. Thanks snik for everything
    K-Will (Katie Williams)

  12. Kate Summers

    Wearing the swim 4 snik band makes me feel like you are still on earth. When I hered about the new head coach coming I thought to my self well I still think you are still the head coach.
    And I would just like to let you know you will all ways be the head coach of Wolverine Aqutics nomader if you are here on earth or some were else. I feel you are chearing me on at all of the meets I do. Bye
    -Kate Summers

  13. Bob

    Eric coached my daughter in Platinum for one year. He said he would take her to her potential and he did. After we left the club for medical reasons, he remained a friend and was still involved and supported my daughter’s swimming. He had tremendous energy and goals.
    Bob T.

  14. k-Will

    Having to wear your Braclets at my pratices i feel like your the coach still on this earth.. I feel like your still swimming like you’ve never swam before i keep your spirit close to my heart and i sometimes feel like your still coaching club wolverine and having a good ole time… Snik I’ll always admire you from the moment of the 96 olympics untill now I miss you but when i meet you in heaven we’ll coach are own team together… God bless you Snik Rest in peace and to Sniks kids when i get my first medal in the international special olympics games i’ll pass it on to to u… with love heart.. Thanks snik for keeping me going…
    K-Will 🙂

  15. Noelle Jacobs

    My name is Noelle Jacobs. I have a funny story about Snik.
    It was at the Snowball Splash meet in November of 2005. I was standing next to the side of the pool talking with coach David and teammate Shelagh, I was holding on to the rail and stretching my leg back, Eric was walking, looking back talking with someone when we tripped over my leg and stumbled. He was close to falling in the pool! I apologized and he said, “be more caraful next time.” I think we both needed to be more careful. I should watch where I strech and Snik should have been more caraful driving. I miss you Eric and every time I look at your poster I think about the time you tripped over my leg. And I’ll never forget the morning practice at EMU when Eric told me I was a breaststroker. I’m not anymore, because I wanted to become an IMer and Flyer after he passed. I did. But I still swim breaststroke events for Snik. God bless the Namesnik family.
    ~*~*Noelle M. Jacobs*~*~

  16. Doug Dietsche

    I can’t believe this. Eric was my idol as I attended U of M swim camp from 91-93 as an Illinois age grouper. I have been out and away from the swimming community for a few years now, but I can’t believe I am just hearing this. Totally teared up when I read what happened to him. I ended up swimming for the Buckeyes (sorry Eric), but that is truely one Wolverine that I will forever respect. The absolute picture of class, integrity, and the kind of guy that every athlete should aspire to be like. I’ll never forget watching him from the stands at the Atlanta Games because even my dad was so excited to be watching this guy I’d been talking about for 5 years. What an honor for those who received his organs as part of his physical being lives on. To the Namesnik family and the U of M swimming family I am so sorry for your loss. Rest in peace buddy.

  17. Emily Strobaugh

    Eric you inspired me to keep swimming and i am only eleven i was nine when this happened and i was at a meet in toledo swimming for you. I just wanted to let you know that the wolverines made caps in your honor and at the memorial we kept on chanting swim 4 snik swim4 snik. it was a moment i’ll never forget and hopefully the receiver of your organs can be as humble, as giving and as inspiring as you were to me. To all the wolverines and to the best coach in the world, here’s to you Eric you weren’t just a hero you were and forever will be a legend in the history of swimming!

  18. Anonymous

    After watching Michael Phelps win 8 Gold medals, I thought about the guy that I used to swim with at the Butler YMCA. I remembered that I watched him win Silvers in the 90s, but I wondered what he was up to now. Imagine my shock at seeing this… I am truly saddened for his family and parents. I will always remember how everyone at the Y meets would watch the 14 year old phenom swim the 500M in the “exhibition” lane because he wasn’t old enough to enter the race. And he’d win it everytime…it’s nice to know that he touched the lives of young swimmers everywhere.

  19. Julian

    My Name is Julian. He game me an autograph on post card during the 96 Atlantic Olympic games. we “Thank you” each other.. I can not believe he passed away already. God Bless him. Does he has a family and any children?

  20. robbie allen

    I am very sadden to hear of Eric’s passing. I was a few years older than him but swam in Western PA as well. He was an up and comer then and we knew that he was going to be big. I remember meeting him at meet as I was the old (High School Senior) warhorse on the way out and he the young new stud.
    I attended the 1996 games in Atlanta and was proud that I “knew” some one on the team. Also pround that someone from John Sheehans swim camp SKwim had finally made the games. I remember seeing T-shirts with his name on it.
    As someone who still swims, I admire his dedication to the sport and am proud of all the lives he has touched. I am sure he is missed.

  21. Erin

    I miss you. Everyday when people talk about Club Wolverine I think “That’s supposed to be Eric coaching”. You are greatly missed, every single time I’m at the pool. And I remember everything you’ve said to make my stroke better, and after you died I wanted to just stop swimming. No coach can ever compare to you. But I knew you wouldn’t want that. I’m still swimming, and every race I know youre swimming it with me.
    I miss you and I know tons of other people do too. Rest in Peace.

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