Suffering from injuries sustained in a car accident last weekend, former Michigan swimmer and assistant coach Eric Namesnik was prounced brain dead at about 3 p.m. yesterday at St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital in Superior Township. He will be taken off life support today after his organs are prepared for donation.
Namesnik made a name for himself as both a swimmer and an assistant coach in his 16 years at the University. He gained national recognition at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic games, where he won two silver medals.
Namesnik’s condition took a turn for the worse at about 7 a.m. yesterday after he was seriously injured in a traffic accident early Saturday morning, according to former swim team captain Dan Ketchum.
Sgt. Brad Hill of the Ann Arbor Police Department said there were over a dozen cars involved in the pile-up, which occurred on I-94 near Jackson when several vehicles lost control in the drizzle.
Namesnik’s former coach and co-worker Jon Urbanchek was at the hospital when he was pronounced brain dead. A number of his former teammates were also present.
Since the accident, there has been an outpouring of support from former Michigan swimmers.
A swimming alumni group called the “Michigan Old Guard” sent an e-mail to many former Michigan swimmers alerting them of the situation and suggesting ways for them to support the family.
One of Namesnik’s most famous races took place against fellow Wolverine Tom Dolan in the 400-meter individual medley at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Dolan finished first, beating Namesnik by a mere .35 seconds.
Though Dolan and Namesnik were often characterized as rivals, Dolan expressed deep concern over Namesnik’s condition, recalling the important role Namesnik played in his life.
“He was such a huge influence on my career,” Dolan said. “It’s hard to think about swimming right now. (Namesnik) was one of the reasons that I came to (Michigan).”
Namesnik left the University in 2004 when Bob Bowman was hired as the new head coach following the legendary Urbanchek’s retirement. Namesnik had been a popular candidate to replace Urbanchek.
“I’d just like to see Namesnik get the job,” Indiana men’s swimming coach Ray Looze said in January 2004. “He’s a fine coach and one of (Michigan’s) most successful swimmers of all time.”
Urbanchek separated himself from the process of choosing his successor. Although he acknowledged that Bowman’s selection brought a marquee name to Michigan, he said it was tough to see a “loyal Michigan man” passed over for the job.
Namesnik coached six- to 17-year-olds in the Wolverine Aquatics swim club for the past two years.
Namesnik’s wife Kirsten is a lecturer in the statistics department at the University. The couple has two children.
“He was the best of Michigan men,” Ketchum said.
– Gabe Edelson and Anne VanderMey contributed to this report.