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Ready Room Interview: Ron Johnson

Uploaded on July 2, 2010 by jeff
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Ron Johnson coached the women's teams at Arizona State to two national championships and a couple of runner-up finishes. He also coached talented swimmers on the men's team there. Johnson has survived five heart attacks in his lifetime, all of them after his retirement from coaching, but Johnson calls himself "bulletproof," since his fisrt heart attack happened during a triathlon. He says he has been diagnosed with arterial fibrillation, which causes blood to clot and cause strokes. Still, Johnson says his athletic background was enough to keep him from dying of a stroke. His most recent heart attack, which took place in March 2007 shortly after setting a Masters national record, was severe enough that paramedics were ready to declare Johnson dead. Through the intervention of his daughter, Marika McCue, paramedics shocked his heart a fourth time, which restarted his heart faintly, but was enough to get him to the hospital for treatment. Open heart surgery for almost five hours restored Johnson to health at 75. Johnson said he's learned to eat better, as "it won't make you bulletproof to just do the exercise." Johnson talks about the "primitive" days of swimming in the 1940s, when swimmers didn't have caps, goggles or sophisticated lane lines. Johnson said the exciting part of swimming is that swimmers don't have to be in a constant stage of fatigue throughout the season, allowing them to swim fast more often. The best programs, he said, concentrate on quality training instead of putting out major yardage, as he did during Hell Week while coaching at ASU. Johnson also talks about the stroke technique improvements seen today, especially in women's distance swimming and stroke rate teaching. Johnson has transitioned well into the Masters swimming realm, setting more than 50 world records and earning the USMS Coach of the Year honor. He talks about "pushing back the age barriers," where swimmers such as Richard Abrahams are swimming faster than they did in college. With men's swimming programs being cut across the country, Johnson talks about the impact cutting teams will have on swimming, from the collegiate level to the high school swimmers who see that fewer scholarships are available and might not continue in the sport.
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