November 2017 - SWIMMING
Remembering Terry Laughlin
By Ann Svenson
After living with metastatic prostate cancer for two years (about which he blogged widely), Terry Laughlin passed away at 66 years old on October 20, of complications related to his condition. He displayed his characteristic optimism, wit, and passion for life – and swimming – until the very end. Our family is in mourning, but we fully recognize that he was also a legend in the swimming world and admired by countless people whose lives he touched in meaningful ways. We appreciate the well-wishes of many friends, fellow coaches and students, and there will be a public memorial on Saturday, Nov. 18 in New Paltz. –Terry’s wife, Alice, and daughters, Fiona, Carrie and Betsy.
The Total Immersion motto, “Swimming that Changes Your Life” says it all. That becomes clear as one reads the hundreds of tributes and comments on Facebook. Terry Laughlin inspired thousands of swimmers, many of whom he never met. He helped young and old, novice to former Olympian, able-bodied to disabled. He shared and stoked a lifelong passion for swimming. His teaching methods opened up a whole new world to runners and cyclists who wanted to become triathletes. Swimming is not an intuitive endurance sport, but he simplified the teaching and developed a revolutionary program – Total Immersion Swimming – to bring the sport he loved to so many. Terry worked with US Navy Seals to increase the efficiency of the sidestroke by 30%.
Terry created the “Focal Point Practice” that trained the brain as well as the body. Traditional swim practices were about how much and how fast. Terry added ease and concentration to the program, teaching us to think about every stroke. “Speed happens” he said. He talked to and met with experts in many fields and applied what he learned to teaching swimming. “Kaizen,” Japanese for “continual improvement” was an important theme in Total Immersion.
In 2006, this practice paid off personally for Terry, when he broke two US Masters Swimming open water national records in the one-mile and two-mile cable swims (the only open water events for which records are held as they’re swum around a precise quarter-mile cable course) at the Betsy Owens Memorial Race in Mirror Lake, Lake Placid – his favorite swim. As a result of these swims, Terry achieved Long Distance All-American status and was named to the 2006 USMS Long Distance All Star team.
In August 2018, the two-mile cable swim will now be the Terry Laughlin Two-Mile Race, and the one-mile will now be the Betsy Owens One-Mile Race. They were friends and she would be proud to share the bill with him. Terry’s last swim event was the Lake George Open Water Swim in Hague on August 26, which he really enjoyed alongside his daughter, Carrie.
Terry contributed quarterly swimming columns and photos to Adirondack Sports & Fitness magazine from 2001 to 2010, which were widely read and shared. He always signed his missives “Happy Laps,” and it’s his greatest contribution to the swimming world.
Ann Svenson (firstname.lastname@example.org) of Saratoga Springs is a longtime friend of Terry and former director of the Betsy Owens Memorial Lake Swims. She has been a USMS Long Distance All Star and a national record holder. Ann teaches swimming at the Saratoga Regional YMCA and was one of the first Total Immersion coaches.