Memo, a 2-time Mexican Olympic Legend, Passes Away. Guillermo Echevarría Pérez Inspired a Generation
Guillermo Echevarría Pérez, a two-time Mexican Olympic distance swimmer, passed away today at the age of 73.
Echevarría competed in both the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games at the age of 16 and in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games at the age of 20.
He briefly held the world record in the 1500 meter freestyle, breaking Olympic champion Mike Burton’s record in 1968 at the Santa Clara Invitational Swim Meet in 16:28.1 before Burton took the record back 2 months later. He ultimately finished 6th in the 1500m freestyle in his country’s 1968 Mexico City Olympics, his best event.
Along the way, he also competed in the 4x100m freestyle relay (finishing 6th), 4x200m freestyle relay (finishing 7th) at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He competed in both the 400m and the 1500m freestyles in Mexico City.
After retiring from pool competition, he entered in the 36 km Maratona del Golfo Capri-Napoli in 1971. In a tough race between Echevarría and two International Marathon Swimming Hall of Famers Veljko Rogošić of Yugoslavia and Horacio Iglesias of Argentina, Echevarría finished second in 7 hours 50 minutes, his only major professional marathon swim.
Oceans Seven swimmer Antonio Argüelles said in sadness, “He was my childhood hero. One of my coaches in Mexico,Gabriel Altamirano, had Memo’s notebook with all his workouts.I was excited to read about them, and after some time, I tried a few. Before our time, his workout times looked unattainable. As I grew older, I tried some of them and felt proud when I could swim 15×400 @ 600. It was my favorite workout.”
As adults, we worked during my time at Secretary of Commerce and Industrial Development in Mexico. I always admired him. The last time I saw him in the photo above, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
Big hug, Memo. Wherever you are, you will surely find a body of water where you will feel very comfortable.”
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