Richard Thornton, a two-time All-American swimmer and US Olympian, tragically passed away on a California beach on Thursday, as reported by his family. He was 65 years old.
Marc Thornton, the brother of the passionate surfer, mentioned that the avid wave enthusiast was having a meeting with a friend at The Hook, a well-known surfing location in Santa Cruz.
“He was following his buddy down the steps. His buddy jumped in the water, looked up for Richard, and Richard was just standing there at peace, not clutching his heart or anything, and he just kind of collapsed into the water.”
Kirra, the daughter of Thornton, strongly criticized the accounts suggesting that her father’s demise resulted from a surfing mishap. She clarified that the exact cause of death remained uncertain.
The family informed the outlet that Thornton had been contending with Multiple Myeloma. In a Facebook post, Marc Thornton expressed that his brother passed away while engaged in his passion. At the age of 21 in 1980, Thornton qualified and was chosen as a participant in the US men’s Olympic swimming team.
We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of Cal Swimming great Richard Thornton.
Our thoughts are with Richard’s family, friends, and all of those he impacted in the Cal community https://t.co/stqhlEoDb2
— Cal Athletics (@CalAthletics) January 6, 2024
However, Thornton chose not to take part and refrained from attending the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow as a form of protest against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Subsequently, he earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from the University of Cal Berkeley in 1980. According to his alma mater, Thornton focused on the 100 and 200 butterfly, as well as the 200 freestyle.
Since 1984, Thornton served as the head coach of San Ramon Valley Aquatics. Additionally, he held coaching positions for the US national and junior national teams in various locations, including Paris, Japan, and Brazil. Recognized for his coaching prowess, Thornton earned the title of Pacific Swimming Coach of the Year, being nominated for six consecutive years from 1994 to 2000.
Throughout his coaching tenure, Thornton mentored numerous aspiring Olympians, such as Matt Biondi, who secured eight gold medals in the 1984, ’88, and ’92 Olympic Games, as reported by Cal.
Rob Werner, a childhood friend of Thornton, noted that when not engaged in training, Thornton consistently immersed himself in aquatic pursuits.