Tag Archives: Bill Krumm

Passing The Olympic Torch To Bill Krumm

When Kevin Strong was a Westport YMCA Water Rat swimmer, coach Bill Krumm asked him to mentor a new team member. Both boys were 11 years old.

They forged a great friendship. Strong — a very talented swimmer — quickly brought his teammate to the Water Rats’ high athletic and personal standards.

Both swam at high level college programs. They were in each other’s weddings. Today, Strong — a Staples High School Class of 1988 graduate, now a pediatrician in northern Maine — calls Krumm’s request to help another boy “an opportunity I’ll never forget.”

Three years later, the Westport Y selected Strong as its representative to run with the Olympic torch on a 1/2-mile Fairfield County leg, from the East Coast to the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. He was chosen not only for his swim team accomplishments, but because of the way he lived the Y’s values.

Strong’s run came at night, in the pouring rain. The electric torch was lit. More than 3 decades later, he recalls how thrilling it all was.

Runners kept their torches. Each was also given a gorgeous mahogany case, inscribed with their name and date of the run.

For years, Strong kept his in the basement.

Bill Krumm

He told both stories last week at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, to an audience of 200 Water Rat alumni, Y friends and admirers of Krumm. They came from as far as Singapore to honor his memory. The longtime coach died suddenly in March, of a heart attack. He was 61 years old.

“Bill was a great technical coach,” Strong recalls. “But he was just as talented in helping kids get through that awkward 9- to 14-year-old stage.”

So — at the end of his 5-minute eulogy — Strong tied his 2 stories together. In a surprise, stunning move, he lifted up the Olympic torch he’d brought from Maine — and announced he was donating it to the Westport Y.

Then he asked everyone who knew Krumm to help choose an appropriate inscription.

Kevin Strong with his Olympic torch, at Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

Strong is not sure where the gift will be displayed. He hopes it’s somewhere near the trophy case, at the pool.

But he knows what it will do.

“I want that torch to inspire some 8-year-old kid to be the best swimmer and person he can be — just the way Bill inspired me, and helped me grow,” Strong says.

“I learned so much from him. Now I can give back to others, just like he did.”

Besides, he says, “That Olympic torch does a lot more good at the Westport Y than sitting in my basement.”

YMCA Water Rats Mourn Bill Krumm

The Westport Weston Family YMCA — particularly its extended Water Rats family — was stunned to learn of the death of Bill Krumm.

The 61-year-old — who served as western zone sports development consultant for USA swimming, after retiring in 2007 after 27 years as Water Rats head coach — suffered a heart attack in San Diego on Friday night.

Tributes poured in from former swimmers and their parents. Many echoed the same words: “constant,” “kind,” “caring.” One woman said, “He created the kind of community you wanted your child to be in.”

Bob Knoebel — who hired him in 1980 — said, “Bill was incredibly organized and detail-oriented. We hosted some very complex events, with hundreds of swimmers. He was always there first, to make sure everything was in place to run a successful meet.”

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Bill Krumm

Knoebel gave Krumm his first Westport Y job, as coach of the 9-12-year-olds. But his talents were quickly apparent. Within 2 years, Knoebel made him head coach for the entire program. Many of his swimmers went on to set team, state and zone records.

On its website, the Y called Krumm “the anchor of our program.” It added:

Bill was an exacting coach with a stern façade, who got the best out of his swimmers.  Underneath that curmudgeon-like exterior, however, was a kind and gentle soul who had a great sense of humor and devoted his life to our team when he was its coach.

The Connecticut native graduated in 1977 from Southern Connecticut State University, where he was a nationally ranked swimmer and water polo player. He won the Robert B. Muir Award as New England’s top senior swimmer, and in 1995 was inducted into SCSU’s Sports Hall of Fame.

YMCA logoKrumm held many leadership positions as a volunteer in the swimming community. He was YMCA League President, a member of the USA Swimming Safety Education Committee, and was general chairman of Connecticut Swimming.

He relished his final consultant position with USA Swimming. From his home in Colorado Springs, he traveled throughout the west — including Alaska and Hawaii — advising swim clubs on best practices.

A celebration of his life is planned for this spring, in Westport.