Former championship synchronized swimmer Kim Welshons passed away March 15 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 64. Growing up in Santa Clara, Calif., she and sister Kris were active in gymnastics and swimming. Eventually they discovered synchronized swimming, which quickly became their passion.
Welshons' youth was spent in pools, practicing, competing and gaining world-class championship status. In the early years of competitive synchronized swimming, she became the most honored swimmer in the sport.
“Even at an early age, before she was on top, she was very interesting to watch as a solo swimmer,” said Judy McGowan, president of USA Synchro. “She was very much the artist. You had to watch her when she was swimming.”
She won a number of championships, including 14 international and 13 national titles. At the age of 12, Welshons won a gold medal in the Pan American Games in Brazil. She was then, and remains, the youngest person to ever win a gold medal in that competition.
Three years later, in 1966, Welshons performed in Mexico City at a reception held for Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz. She was invited at the behest of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. Later that year, Welshons again performed for the Johnsons.
“Those of us who knew her and saw her swim will remember her many contributions as an athlete,” McGowan said. “She will be remembered most for her prowess as a soloist. Her solos were beautifully choreographed and swum with great passion.”
Though Welshons retired from swimming in 1970, she continued to advance her category, serving as an international athlete’s representative for synchronized swimming and women in sports.
Welshons also coached the Mexican National Team for two years, as well as providing color commentary for major television networks for eight years.
She was inducted into the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Hall of Fame in 1971. In 1988, Welshons received the highest honor for an aquatics athlete — induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.