Monday, May 3, 2010

American track & field loses a true friend and advocate of the sport...

One of the key figures in the modern history of USA Track & Field, and an international advocate for women's sports, Patricia Rico (left/photo courtesy USA Track & Field) of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., died Sunday of respiratory failure. She was 76.

I first had the privilege of working with Pat Rico 26 years ago in the run-up to the 1984 US Olympic Marathon Trials in Olympia, where I was the assistant to the director of communications/stats guru.

Rico, in her role as 1984 women's Olympic team manager, IAAF women's committee member, and TAC women's track and field committee member (she would be elected chair at the end of 1984), was an advocate of adding women's events to the Olympic program, including the marathon, which made its debut in Los Angeles.

As the years progressed, and I became more and more involved with the sport at the national and international levels, she would make a point to say hello, whether it was at the USATF convention, various national championship meets, or whatever world class meets we both happened to attend, whether it was the IAAF World Track & Field Championships, or the 1990 Goodwill Games in my home town of Seattle.

No matter where we'd run into each other, somehow the conversation would eventually lead to May 12th, 1984 and the Olympic Marathon Trials in Olympia, and the job that our local organizing committee did in overcoming the odds, from the moment the LOC made its successful bid in Philadelphia in December 1982, the struggles it went through to find funding, the shocking news that Joan Benoit underwent arthroscopic knee surgery less than three weeks before the Trials, and finally, Benoit's victory to earn her trip to LA, where she would win the Olympic title.

Track and field in this country has lost a true friend and advocate of the sport with her passing.

Below is the release from USA Track & Field announcing Rico's passing...

One of the key figures in the modern history of USA Track & Field, and an international advocate for women's sports, Patricia Rico of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., died Sunday of respiratory failure. She was 76.

Active in track and field for more than 50 years, Ms. Rico's career as an athlete, activist and administrator was highlighted by her service as president of USA Track & Field from 1996-2000. With a mantra that "Change should be a way of life for USATF, not being stuck in the past," Rico's call to action began a two-year-long restructuring of the governing body in 1997-'99 that laid the groundwork for USATF in its current form. As president, she inherited and helped USATF weather a financial crisis in which a $3.5 million debt was paid off by 2003.

"The passing of Pat Rico is a sad day for USA Track & Field," said USATF President Stephanie Hightower. "Her advocacy for women's equality, and her unwillingness to accept the status quo, paved the way for athletes and administrators like myself. She was involved in every facet of the sport, and it is hard to imagine USATF without her."

"Pat was without a doubt one of the pivotal figures in establishing USATF as the sound and strong organization it is today," said USATF CEO Doug Logan. "She was tough as nails, but also warm and kind. She cared so passionately about all the causes she championed, not out of self-interest but out of service to this great sport. We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude and are tremendously saddened to lose her."

A competitor in the discus throw at the 1960 U.S. Olympic Trials, Ms. Rico served the sport in many capacities. Shortly after retiring from competition, she co-founded Track Mirror, the first American publication for women's track and field. She also began an association with Olympic sports' administrative body, the AAU, and continued her service when The Athletics Congress (TAC) became the national governing body for track in 1978. The organization was renamed USATF in 1992. Ms. Rico was the only person to sit on the initial board of directors of the organization from its inception, as TAC, in 1979 until the board was restructured in late 2008.

She served as chair of the women's track and field committee for two terms (1971-75, 1984-88). Elected to the IAAF Women's Committee in 1976 and serving through 1999, Rico fought successfully to broaden women's events in the Olympic program. She served on several international Team USA staffs, including the 1984 Olympics as women's head manager and as chef de mission for the 1986 Goodwill Games.

Among the many hats she wore in her half-century service to the sport, Ms. Rico served as a referee at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and carried out similar duties at no fewer than four NCAA Outdoor Championships, the 1987 Pan American Games and the 1976 Olympic Trials. She was the International Technical Official at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and was head manager for the U.S. women's track team at the 1977 IAAF World Cup and the 1991 World Outdoor Championships.

She also was a meet administrator, working as assistant meet director with her late husband, Heliodoro, for the USA/Mobil Indoor Track & Field Championships from 1979-1995. Mr. Rico, also a longtime activist in the sport, died June 29, 2006.

Pat and Helio Rico together were named the recipients of USATF's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, which in that year was renamed in their honor. Formerly known as USATF's Pacesetter Award, the Heliodoro and Patricia Rico Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledges the couple's combined impact on the sport of track and field in the U.S.

No comments:

Blog Archive