Former Olympian Dies In Santa Cruz Surf - Stab Mag

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Former Olympian Dies In Santa Cruz Surf

“He said goodbye to this earth with sand between his toes and a surfboard by his side.”

elsewhere // Jan 6, 2024
Words by August Howell
Reading Time: < 1 minute

An esteemed former American Olympian and swimming coach died on the sand at a popular Santa Cruz break this week, according to multiple reports. 

The family of Richard Thornton, 65, reported that he had died while entering the water at The Hook in Santa Cruz on Thursday, January 5. Lookout Santa Cruz reported that emergency personnel crews responded to a medical emergency and attempted CPR. The cause of death has not been made public. The website SwimSwam was the first to break the news.

Richard was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic swim team that boycotted the games in Moscow in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He had been the head coach of the San Ramon Valley Aquatics since 1984. According to Lookout, Rochard had coached numerous NCAA All-Americans and the Olympians.

In a Facebook post, Marc Thornton, Richard’s brother, wrote that his brother “coached U.S. national and junior national teams in Paris, Japan and Brazil. Thornton was named Pacific Swimming Coach of the Year once, while being nominated six consecutive years between 1994 and 2000.”

“He was doing what he loved this morning in Santa Cruz getting ready to surf. It happened quickly,” Richard’s former collegiate teammate David Santos, wrote in a tribute on Facebook. “He said goodbye to this earth with sand between his toes, and a surfboard by his side.”

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