A for Athlete


  • Swimming official from the Greater Pittsburgh area.


Carol Zaleski, former president of USA Swimming, received the 2009 George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award[]

during a ceremony in December 2009 in New York City.

The award is presented annually by the United States Olympic Foundation to honor an outstanding member of the Olympic family who has contributed to sport through management, sport organization endeavors or the enhancement of competitive opportunities, and who has displayed qualities of leadership, ethical conduct, and dedicated responsibility during a longstanding commitment to sport.

“Carol is someone who commands a tremendous amount of respect and admiration both within USA Swimming and internationally,” said Chuck Wielgus, executive director of USA Swimming. “For nearly 40 years, Carol has worked tirelessly to advance the sport, and her contributions have had a direct and positive impact on our athletes, officials and leadership. We are incredibly proud to count Carol as one of our own, and we congratulate her on winning this prestigious award.

”From volunteer to executive, Zaleski has contributed to the sport of swimming at every level for more than 37 years. She served four terms as president of USA Swimming (1986-1990 and 1994-1998) and the sport was positively impacted through her leadership in many ways. Among her accomplishments Zaleski:

  • Helped form the U.S. Sports Insurance Company (USSIC), which today has $25 million in assets and provides a steady revenue stream for USA Swimming.
  • Helped start the Athlete Assistance Program, designed to provide financial assistance to elite athletes in order to allow them to focus full time on training.
  • Directed the creation of the $1 million International Center for Aquatic Research on the campus of the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. *  Directed the creation of the $1 million dollar International Center for Aquatic Research, which opened on the campus of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1988. In the facility, sports scientists studied Olympic superstars such as Janet Evans, Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi and more.
  • Led the committee that brought in current USA Swimming Executive Director, Chuck Wielgus.

“It is difficult to find a facet in the sport of swimming that has not felt Carol’s nudge in the right direction,” said William Hybl, chairman and CEO of the U.S. Olympic Foundation. “Her passion and expertise combine to make her a dynamic leader who helped raise the profile of swimming while enhancing the performance of the athletes and officials who ensure the sport’s legitimacy.”In 2008 at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Zaleski became the first female deck referee for Olympic swimming.  It was her sixth-consecutive Games-time assignment, and it capped a career that saw her work tirelessly to develop and train swimming officials nationally and internationally. Through USA Swimming’s National Officials Training program that Zaleski pioneered, she helped develop program materials that are still used to guarantee well-trained officials for USA Swimming events across the country. In 1995 she brought the program to the rest of the world with FINA, the sport’s international governing body. Additionally, as chair of the technical swimming committee for FINA, the world governing body of swimming, from 1992-2005, Zaleski was charged with overseeing officials at five straight Olympic Games.  During her on-going tenure with the organization, Zaleski has touched nearly every level of the 300,000-member NGB.  She continues to be instrumental in formulating rules on the national and international levels, and has lent her extensive experience and wisdom to meet operations from local clubs to the Olympic Games. “It is particularly pleasing to receive an award named for a friend and contributor to the Olympic movement,” Zaleski said. “George, as a USOC Vice President, served as the liaison to the Games Preparation Committee that I chaired.  I also worked with him on the Steinbrenner Commission for the USOC.”Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, has been a long-time supporter of the U.S. Olympic movement on many levels and has held a variety of positions with the United States Olympic Committee. He served as a USOC vice president and, in addition, represented the private sector on the USOC’s executive board and chaired a committee charged with improving the USOC’s efficiency and American performance. Previous Steinbrenner award winners include Alan Rothenberg and Walter Bush, Jr.