An NCAA champion diver, Ron O’Brien came within two points of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Team at the Rome 1960 Olympic Games.
O’Brien went on to win the AAU national championship the following year, but it is safe to say that his biggest impact on the sport has been as a coach. He guided the U.S. Olympic Team for every Games from 1968 to 1988 and his divers continually found success.
Among the highlights, in 1986 all 12 U.S. diving individual titles were won by divers coached by O’Brien. In 1988, O’Brien coached Greg Louganis to his second consecutive double gold medal performance in the springboard and platform events. From 1973 to 1996, he coached at least one national champion in 24 consecutive years.
Narrowly missing the Olympic Team “certainly was a good motivator,” O’Brien said upon induction to the International Swimming Hall of Fame. “It made me want to make it as a coach. But what keeps me going is not winning, but the quest for reaching potential in myself as a coach and my kids as divers. It’s the pursuit of excellence.”
Like many divers, O’Brien’s athletic career began in gymnastics, and his talent transferred over to the pool. He won six varsity letters between the two sports at Ohio State University. He began coaching at the University of Minnesota, before moving back to his alma mater and coaching the Buckeyes from 1963 to 1978.