Tragic Loss: US Olympian Richard Thornton Dies Unexpectedly on California Beach

SANTA CRUZ, California – Richard Thornton, a former US Olympian and two-time All-American swimmer, tragically passed away on Thursday. According to his family, the 65-year-old collapsed and died while on a California beach. Thornton was an avid surfer and had been meeting with a friend at The Hook, a popular surfing spot in Santa Cruz. His brother, Marc Thornton, stated that Richard collapsed into the water after standing peacefully and not showing any signs of distress. While initial reports suggested that Thornton’s death was a result of a surfing accident, his daughter Kirra refuted those claims and stated that the exact cause of death is still unknown.

Richard Thornton had been battling Multiple Myeloma, a form of cancer, according to his family. Despite his health struggles, Thornton continued pursuing his passion for swimming and coaching. In 1980, at the age of 21, he qualified and was selected to represent the US men’s Olympic swimming team but chose to boycott the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Throughout his career, Thornton made significant contributions to the swimming community. He coached several future Olympians, including the renowned swimmer Matt Biondi, who won multiple gold medals in the Olympic Games. Thornton’s coaching career also took him to international events in Paris, Japan, and Brazil, where he worked with the US national and junior national teams.

Richard Thornton’s impact extended beyond his coaching achievements. He was remembered by friends and loved ones as someone who truly enjoyed being in the water. Even after his swimming career, Thornton could always be found in the ocean, pursuing his love for surfing. His friend, Rob Werner, recalled how Richard would often express his desire to go surfing, emphasizing that it was his true passion.

The passing of Richard Thornton is mourned by the swimming community and his alma mater, the University of Cal Berkeley. The school’s Athletics department expressed their condolences and stated that they are heartbroken by his loss. Despite his untimely passing, Thornton will be remembered for his dedication to the sport and his impact as a coach, mentor, and athlete.

In conclusion, Richard Thornton, a former US Olympian and esteemed swimmer, has tragically passed away at the age of 65. His death occurred on a beach in Santa Cruz, California, where he collapsed while enjoying his love for surfing. Thornton’s family has stated that the exact cause of his death is still unknown. Throughout his life, he made significant contributions to the swimming community as an athlete, coach, and mentor. Richard Thornton will be remembered for his resilience, passion for the water, and his impact in the world of swimming.