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Spartan Olympians: Kenneth Walsh

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Summer 2008

KENNETH WALSH, Member, U.S. Olympic swimming team, 1968 Summer Games, Mexico City, Gold Medals, 4x400-meter freestyle relay and 4x400-meter relay; Silver Medal, 100-meter freestyle.

            Kenneth Walsh, ’67, MSU’s only double-gold Olympian, earned two gold and one silver medal at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.

            Walsh held the world record in the 100-meter freestyle (long course)—52.6 seconds—from July 27, 1967 until October 19, 1968.  He finished second at the 1968 Olympics, ahead of teammate Mark Spitz. He won gold medals as the anchor in the 4x100-meter medley relay and in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.

            Walsh won six swimming titles in 1967, including the NCAA 100-yard freestyle; the Big Ten 100-yard and 200-yard freestyle, and the 4x100-yard freestyle relay. He set a world record in his 100 meter leg in the 4x100 freestyle relay at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.

            A native of Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, Walsh was recruited to MSU by coach Charles McCaffree.  “We were on the cusp,” he recalls. “I had a great time at MSU.  You got up when it’s dark, and when you’re done practicing, it’s dark again. In between you tried to get some studying done.  (Assistant coach) Dick Fetters was the guy who dealt with us on a day-to-day basis and he was a great, great motivator.”

            Today Walsh works as a freelance, television handheld cameraman, mostly in golf tournaments.  He has worked at nine Master’s tournaments, and will work at the Olympic swimming events in Beijing. He and his wife Marilyn split time between Big Sky, MT, where he skis with three grandchildren, and Haleiwa, HI, where he owns a 26-foot Bertram fishing boat and spends water time with three other grandchildren.

            “The gals today are almost as fast as my world record,” he notes with a chuckle.  “It’s been 40 years!”