Chad Hundeby Passes Away.  A Hero Will Be Missed

Chad Hundeby Passes Away. A Hero Will Be Missed

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, Irvine, California.

Dan Albano, a high school sports reporter with the Orange County Register, reported that American dual inductee Chad Hundeby passed away suddenly at the age of 50 on June 12th, apparently due to a heart attack.

Hundeby was inducted in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame as an Honor Swimmer in its Class of 1996 and in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in its Class of 2012 – and the father of three boys.

There was no more humble and quiet professional marathon swimming champion than Chad,” remembers Steven Munatones. “Known by his nickname the American Express, the former Southern Methodist University star took his hard work and dedication to distance swimming to the next logical level. He won the 25 km title at the 1991 FINA World Swimming Championships in the Swan River in Perth, Australia, the first time open water swimming was elevated to the world championships. He was honored as the Open Water Swimmer of the Year by the USA Swimming in 1991, 1993 and 1994 where he also was the overall point leader in either the International Marathon Swimming Association or FINA World Series pro circuit.

Ned Denison, chairperson of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, said, “Chad was one of the sport’s greatest swimmers. He won three Majors including the 1991 FINA 25 km World Championship and set speed records for the Catalina and English Channels. He passed away far too young at age 49.”

Sid Cassidy, a long-time member of the FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee, said, “Chad was an amazing swimmer and so much more … I remember his great determination as a young man and how he became a World Champion in an incredibly grueling 25K in Perth, Australia. He helped lay the modern groundwork for what our marathon sport is today. Peace. Maybe he and [his coach] Flip Darr are having a laugh upstairs.” 

Another teammate Karen Reed recalled, “Chad was one of the hardest workers in the sport.  At one point, I remember him swimming triple workouts in Colorado Springs, at altitude.   My prayers go out to his family.”

He really fell in love with marathon swimming,” said Johnny Johnson who taught Hundeby how to swim at the age of 3 at the local Blue Buoy Swim School. “The water is where he wanted to be.”

Hundeby won races ranging from the 32 km Traversee Internationale du lac St-Jean in Canada to the 37 km Atlantic City Around The Island Swim. In addition to being a world class racer, he also completed a crossing of the Catalina Channel (CM) in 8 hours 14 minutes and a record-setting crossing of the English Channel in 7 hours 17 minutes at the age of 23. He broke the record by Penny Dean, his coach, of 7 hours 40 minutes that had stood since 1978.

Munatones added, “Imagine that…a record holder coaching and teaching her swimmer to break her own hallowed record. The humility and graciousness on both their parts are characteristics that are rarely seen at the highest echelon of swimming, let alone all sports.

He was also on a Catalina Channel record-setting relay and a record-setting English Channel relay with Jay Wilkerson, coach Flip DarrMartha JahnKaren BurtonDirk Bouma, and Sid Cassidy with coaches Penny Dean and John York. They set three English Channel relay records: 6 hours 52 minutes on their first leg (England-to-France), 7 hours 26 minutes on their second leg (France-to-England), and the fastest overall and fastest 2-way relay (England-to-France-to-England) in 14 hours 18 minutes in 1990 – that still stands to this day.

He won nearly every professional marathon swim in the world during his career – and you would never know it. He didn’t brag or boast. He swam, he won, he moved onto the next race. He was such a gentleman with so many achievements to his name. He will be sorely missed.”

Hundeby is survived by his wife, Jean Marie, sons Anders, Hayden, and Marcus, brother Coleman Hundeby, and his parents Ted and Jan Hundeby. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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Steven Munatones