Mike Heath (swimmer)

Michael Steward Heath (born April 9, 1964) is an American former competition swimmer who specialized in freestyle events. He is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and a former world record-holder in two relay swimming events. A native of Texas, he won two national collegiate championship competing for the University of Florida. During his elite swimming career, Heath won ten medals in major international championships, including seven golds, two silvers and a bronze, spanning the Olympic Games, FINA World Championships, and Pan Pacific Championships.

Mike Heath
Personal information
Full nameMichael Steward Heath
National teamUnited States
Born (1964-04-09) April 9, 1964
McAllen, Texas
Height6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight170 lb (77 kg)
College teamUniversity of Florida

Early years

Heath was born in McAllen, Texas.[1] He attended Highland Park High School in University Park, Texas (a Dallas suburb), and competed for the Highland Park High School swim team.[2] In 1980, he set a new Texas state high school record in the boys' 200-yard freestyle (1:37.88); he set a second state record in the event in 1982 (1:37.53), breaking his own previous record in the process.[3]

College swimming career

Heath accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he swam for coach Randy Reese's Florida Gators swimming and diving team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) competition from 1983 to 1986.[4][5] He was a member of the Gators' 1983 and 1984 NCAA men's championship teams, as well as four consecutive SEC championships teams.[4] As a Gator swimmer, he won NCAA national titles in the 400-yard freestyle relay (1983), 800-yard freestyle relay (1983, 1984), and 200-yard freestyle (1984), and received nineteen All-American honors.[4] His strong finish swimming the anchor leg for the Gators in the 4×100-yard freestyle relay provided the Gators' winning points in their first NCAA national team championship in 1983.[6] He also won seven SEC titles, and was recognized as the SEC male swimmer of the year in 1983 and 1985.[4] Heath graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in exercise and sports science in 1988,[7] and was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great" in 1996.[8][9]

International swimming career

Heath, who had not previously been a member of the U.S. national team, won the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events at the 1984 U.S. Olympic trials, and thereby qualified to compete in the two Olympic individual events and for the U.S. relay teams.[10] As a newcomer to the U.S. trials, he made a dramatic statement by setting a new American record in the preliminary heats of the 200-meter freestyle.[11] At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, he won three gold medals and a silver.[1]

He won his first Olympic gold medal by swimming the lead-off leg in the men's 4×200-meter freestyle relay, and Heath and his American teammates David Larson, Jeff Float and Bruce Hayes set a new world record of 7:15.69, edging the Michael Gross-led West Germans by four one-hundredths (0.04) of a second.[12][13][14] He won his second gold medal by helping set another world record of 3:19.03 in the men's 4×100-meter freestyle relay, together with fellow Americans Chris Cavanaugh, Matt Biondi and Rowdy Gaines, finishing sixty-five one-hundredths (0.65) of a second ahead of the second-place Australians.[15] He then earned a third gold medal by swimming for the winning U.S. team in the preliminary heats of the 4×100-meter medley relay.[1] In a word play on the title of the popular 1984 movie Ghostbusters, American media dubbed Heath and his 4×200-meter relay teammates the "Gross Busters."[16][17]

In individual Olympic competition, Heath won a silver medal in the 200-meter freestyle (1:49.10) behind Gross's world record-setting performance (1:47.44).[18] He also placed fourth in the 100-meter freestyle event final (50.41); the outcome was controversial, however, because of a premature starter gun and a quick start by Gaines, the winner.[19] Gaines' coach, Richard Quick, knew of starter Frank Silvestri's propensity to fire the starter gun almost immediately when the swimmers mounted the blocks.[20][21] Gaines gained about a meter's head start on the competition; video of the event later confirmed that one or more of the swimmers had not been set when the starter gun fired.[20][22]

After the 1984 Olympics, Heath continued to swim for the U.S. national team, and remained a fixture on the freestyle relay teams. At the 1985 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, gold medalists Scott McCadam, Heath, Paul Wallace and Biondi set a new world record of 3:17.08 in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.[23] Together with Biondi, Duffy Dillon and Craig Oppel, he won another gold medal in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay (7:17.63). Individually, Heath won a Pan Pacific Championships gold medal in the 200-meter freestyle (1:49.29) by beating Biondi (1:50.19) and Canadian Sandy Goss (1:50.56).[24] He also won a Pan Pacific silver medal in the 100-meter freestyle (50.78), finishing a fraction of a second behind Biondi (50.44).[25] Heath again swam for the U.S. relay teams at the 1986 World Aquatics Championships in Madrid; Tom Jager, Heath, Paul Wallace and Biondi won the 4×100-meter freestyle (3:19.89); and Eric Boyer, Heath, Dan Jorgensen and Biondi placed third in the 4×200-meter freestyle (7:18.29).[26]

Life after competition swimming

Heath was an assistant coach for the Florida Gators swim team from 1988 to 1989.[4] After graduating from the University of Florida, Heath first worked as a salesman, before he coached swimming at Fletcher High School in Neptune Beach, Florida, for six years, and thereafter at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville, Florida.[27] He is married to Sherri-Lee Schricker, who was a member of the Florida Gators swim team at the University of Florida from 1984 to 1987, and they have two children.[4][27] Their son Grady will swim for the Florida Gators beginning in 2015–16.[28]

World records

Men's 4×100-meter freestyle relay

Time Date Event Location
3:19.03 August 2, 1984 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California[15]
3:17.08 August 18, 1985 1985 Pan Pacific Championships Tokyo, Japan[23]

Men's 4×200-meter freestyle relay

Time Date Event Location
7:15.69 July 30, 1984 1984 Summer Olympics Los Angeles, California[12]

See also


  1. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Athletes, Mike Heath. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  2. Jack Hairston, "Heath hindered by fast gun," The Gainesville Sun, p. 1D (August 1, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  3. Associated Press, "Lake wins state swim title," The Galveston Daily News, p. 2-B (March 29, 1982). Retrieved July 12, 2015. (Subscription required.)
  4. Florida Swimming & Diving 2014–15 Media Supplement Archived February 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 78, 79, 83, 87, 88, 96, 101, 103 (2014). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  5. Mike Bianchi, "UF still harvesting bumper crop of 1983," The Gainesville Sun, p. 1D (March 27, 1985). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  6. Randy Hart, "UF Splashes to 1st NCAA Swim Title," The Gainesville Sun, p. 1D (March 27, 1983). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  7. University of Florida Alumni Directory, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (2000).
  8. F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  9. "UF Hall of Fame inductees," The Gainesville Sun, p. 2C (April 12, 1996). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  10. William R. Barnard, "Carey breaks U.S. swim record," Gettysburg Times, p. 11 (June 28, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  11. Associated Press, "'Scared' Heath sets mark," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p. 19 (June 26, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  12. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 4 × 200 metres Freestyle Relay Final. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  13. Knight News Service, "U.S. Swimmers Set World Relay Mark," The Toledo Blade, p. 18 (July 31, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  14. Frank Litsky, "U.S. swimmers win two more golds," The New York Times (July 31, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  15. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 4 × 100 metres Freestyle Relay Final. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  16. Craig Neff, "The U.S. Is Back . . . And How!," Sports Illustrated (August 13, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  17. John Weyler, "Signs of the Times: Float Heard the Cheers at Olympics Despite the Loss of His Hearing," Los Angeles Times (July 20, 1985). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  18. Sports-Reference.com, Olympic Sports, Swimming at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, Men's 200 metres Freestyle Final. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  19. Frank Litsky, "5 More Golds Continue American Dominance," The New York Times (August 1, 1984). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  20. Rick Feneley, "From the pool into deep water," Sydney Morning Herald (July 27, 2013). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  21. Jeff Commings, "Whose Start Drew Controversy And Eventual Gold At the 1984 Olympics?," Swimming World Magazine (July 31, 2014). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  22. John Lohn, Historical Dictionary of Competitive Swimming, Scarecrow Press, Inc., Lanham, Maryland, p. 45 (2010). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  23. United Press International, "Biondi leads U.S. to world record," Reading Eagle, p. C-3 (August 18, 1985). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  24. "Briefs," Spokane Chronicle, p. C2 (August 15, 1985). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  25. Associated Press, "Biondi posts best time," The Sumter Daily Item, p. 3B (August 16, 1985). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  26. Associated Press, "World Swimming," Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 2C (August 22, 1986). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  27. Arnold Feliciano, "Florida's Fabulous Fifty: #23 Mike Heath," The Gainesville Sun, p. 1C (December 4, 1999). Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  28. "Florida Men's Swimming Adds Christoph Margotti, Grady Heath to Fall Signing Class," Swimming World Magazine (April 15, 2015). Retrieved July 12, 2015.

Further reading

  • De George, Matthew, Pooling Talent: Swimming's Greatest Teams, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland (2014). ISBN 978-1-4422-3701-8.
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