In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star is featuring our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we have been showcasing our list - with the first 90 in no particular order.
Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.
Imagine the reaction 42 years ago when Charlie Hickcox became head coach of the Pima County Dolphins youth swimming team.
Hickcox was a year removed from winning three gold medals at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, a swimmer of such repute that he set eight world records in a 16-month period, 1967-68.
He moved to Tucson to attend the UA College of Law to follow in the footsteps of his father, who had been an Arizona football player.
Hickcox was newly married to Olympic gold medal diver Lesley Bush; both had retired from competitive athletics soon after the '68 Summer Games.
"I want to be a real estate attorney, but I also want to help the sport of swimming," Hickcox told the Star in 1969. "That's why I'm doing both things now in Tucson."
Growing up in Phoenix, Hickcox attended Washington High School and accepted a scholarship to swim at Indiana, then the nation's top swimming power. While a Hoosier, Hickcox was a 13-time All-American who specialized in the backstroke but won his Olympic gold medals in the 200 IM and the 400 IM.
He also won a silver medal in the 100 backstroke and swam the backstroke in the USA's gold medal-winning 4x100 medley relay team.
He was named the 1968 World Swimmer of the Year.
Hickcox began swimming innocently enough. At 13, he and his sister Mary Sue went to a youth swimming club in Phoenix and asked if they could be part of the program. According to Sports Illustrated in 1968, the unnamed coach said, "I'll take the girl, but the boy is too skinny."
After two years coaching youth swimming teams in Tucson, Hickcox was named the UA's head swimming coach, succeeding Charlie Ott. During those years, 1971-73, Hickcox also was head coach of the UA's men's water polo team. He left Tucson in 1973 to become head coach of the Cincinnati Marlins swimming program.
Hickcox ultimately returned to Phoenix to open a law firm. He remained in practice until he died of brain cancer in the summer of 2010.
Phoenix; 63 (deceased in 2010)
Charlie "has the ability to punish himself. On top of this he's very coachable. I think he's the best all-around swimmer of all-time." - former Indiana and U.S. Olympic coach Doc Counsilman said in a 1969 Sports Illustrated story
On StarNet: See the archive at: azstarnet.com/ sportscentennial