It had been 15 years since Chet Jastremski had opened the
wood-bound book containing his world-record certificates, a
volume that even his three children and five stepchildren had
never seen. But after watching the swimming in the 2000 Olympics,
Jastremski pulled the dusty album from behind his basement couch
and relived his athletic attainments. "It brought back memories,"
he says, "and brought a smile to my face."
Jastremski and his college coach, Indiana's renowned Doc
Counsilman, revolutionized the breaststroke. Instead of the big
frog kick and wide arm pull that breaststrokers had long used,
Jastremski popularized a more compact, efficient stroke and a
whip-kick from the knees down. Between 1961 and '64 the
"ferocious tugboat" (as SI described Jastremski in '64) won 17
AAU titles and set 12 world and 21 American records. Though he
did earn a bronze in the 200 meters at the '64 Olympics, he
failed in four other tries to make the U.S. team. At the '56
trials he was disqualified for using his new kick. Four years
later, after qualifying as the third breaststroker, he was left
home when the Americans mistakenly took only two to Rome, though
they could have taken three. In '68 and '72 he wasn't in peak
form because of the demands of his medical studies and later work
as an Army flight surgeon.
Jastremski practiced family medicine from 1972 until '79, when
pain from rheumatoid arthritis, primarily in his ankles and
knees, forced him to give it up. He didn't sit idly, though. As
a member of the FINA medical committee he helped swimming's
governing body refine tests for performance-enhancing drugs, and
he served as an assistant director of the family-practice
resident program at Community Hospital in Indianapolis. Since
'79 he has been teaching a kinesiology course at Indiana, where
in '86 he returned to the pool deck for a five-year stint as the
Hoosiers' women's coach. In '91 Jastremski launched another
comeback by reopening his family practice. "I was putting in 70
hours a week as a coach," he says. "I said to myself, I can do
Jastremski, 60, has never been tempted to dive back into his
sport in the masters division. "Swimming was such a great part
of my life," he says. "I know I'd be too competitive and try for
records." Still, Jastremski and his second wife, Connie,
occasionally take their nine grandchildren (four his and five
hers) swimming. "We go to the water parks in Wisconsin Dells,"
says the amphibious physician. "When I go in the water there, I
just bob like a cork."
April 1, 2001
He revolutionized his stroke and became a doctor, teacher, coach
and drug-testing pioneer.