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RH's own olympic medalist

Bill Forrester promotes swimming along coast

POSTED: April 3, 2017 12:03 p.m.
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Bill Forrester, 1976 200-meter butterfly bronze medalist.

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As a young boy growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, Bill Forrester and his two sisters swam at a local Jewish Community Center. It was the only place they had available at that time to swim. It wasn’t long before all three were plucked out of the water and encouraged to join the swim team. "I was seven years old, we were at the pool all day long so we joined the swim league," said Forrester. His passion started at a young age and despite following a career path into the construction industry, Forrester has found himself right back where he started. Focused on swimming and developing others with the same passion. With a passion and experience, Forrester is an asset to the coast and is excited to see the sport he loves grow and evolve across the coast.

As a child, he swam in the local swim league and grew more series in high school. As a sophomore, he made the decision to move to Jacksonville, Florida where he would spend his junior and senior years of high school training for the Olympics. Despite being young, Forrester was focused and grateful for the opportunity. While training under Randy Reese, the ultimate goal was to make the 1976 Olympic team. The events Forrester focused on were the 200 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 100 butterfly and he was developing his 400-meter freestyle as well.

At age 17 he made it to the World Championships in Cali, Columbia where he competed in the 100 and 200 butterfly. Forrester took top prize in the 200 fly and came in third in the 100 fly. Quite an accomplishment for this young swimmer. It wouldn’t be long after this, Forrester would get his chance to compete at the Olympic level. He traveled with the Olympic Team to Montreal, Canada where he took bronze in the 200-meter butterfly.

Forrester then went on to swim at Auburn University where he competed in the NCAA and SCC Championships. Each year, getting faster and striving to make the 1980 Olympic team. Unfortunately, 1980 marked a monumental year in Olympic history when President Jimmy Carter called for a boycott of the Olympics. The athletes were not allowed to travel and compete in Russia. This was a major let down, but Forrester admits he was grateful he had been able to have his 1976 experience. Moving forward, Forrester attained a marketing degree and left Auburn to pursue a job in Hilton Head, South Carolina. "My coach had three interviews lined up in Gainesville, Florida. I decided not to, I had opportunities and a place to train and a way to support myself. I decided not to, I was just ready to move on. I started in construction and stayed there for about 10 years working with my family business," said Forrester.

He found himself in Savannah as a spinoff of the construction job. It was here that he would also find himself back in the pool. "I got back in the pool some and ended up coaching a couple of kids at the collegiate level. I then started my own team in 1994, the "GCAT" Georgia Coastal Aquatic Team. We were using the facility at Armstrong State University and did that a year or two until the aquatic center opened up in 1996," said Forrester.

Swimming made its way back into his life and eventually Forrester left construction for good. As of August of 2016, Forrester stepped in to fill a role here in Richmond Hill with the already established Richmond Hill Swim Club. "As far as the future of the program, we are continuing to grow the program. The pool we have here is at capacity with 90-100 swimmers. With the upcoming summer league, we can do up to 150 swimmers. Our focus is growing the programs and getting it to a solid 100 dedicated kids. That is one goal," said Forrester.

The other goal is to have a premier learn to swim program in the area. "With the people that we have in place right now, I feel confident we can accomplish that," said Forrester. Coaches Rob Jones, Lizzy Ingrao and Ronald Byrom have played a huge role in the success of the program here. "

Forrester is still coaching with the GCAT program but facilitating here. He is grateful the coaches and staff all have a passion for the sport and more importantly to teach these kids to swim and more importantly develop character traits that have them growing into great adults in our society," said Forrester.

Currently there is a summer swim program and a year-round program available for locals, as well as swim lessons and exercise classes for people of all ages. Forrester feels strongly Richmond Hill will continue to be a power house and is excited to see what the future holds for the program. For more on these programs visit https://www.teamunify.com or for more on Richmond Hill Swim Club visit their Facebook page.

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