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Obituary: World Swimming Mourns Locke

May 27, 2010  - Gregory Eggert

Richard Locke, longtime Secretary of US Virgin Islands Swimming passed away on May 24th in a Gainesville, Florida hospital while waiting for a lung transplant.  Locke of Christiansted, VI was being treated at the Shands Hospital at the University of Florida, a private, not-for-profit hospital that specializes in tertiary care for critically ill patients. Richard was the father of Kieran and Morgan Locke, graduates of Yale University.  Locke's sons were Pam American and FINA World Championship qualifiers from the US Virgin Islands.  Richard worked for Antilles Resorts and was the person US collegiate swim teams would contact when contemplating a training trip to the Virgin Islands.

Locke and his wife Vicky volunteered and officiated at countless numbers of swim meets when their three sons competed as age groupers for the St. Croix Dolphins swim tream.  Former Dolphins head coach Kevin Tyrell shared that it was Richard's goal to teach all of the kids in the Virgin Islands how to swim.  Tyrell is now an assistant swim coach at Harvard University and has Richard to thank not only for the opportunity to coach in St. Croix but also for the advise that helped him land his current position.  Tyrell remembered Richard's passion and determination to fix a problem on the island: "80% of the children growing up in St. Croix do not know how to swim and Richard was determined to change that."

"Richard was not only a FINA certified referee, but he was instrumental in setting the time standards for all major international competitions for USVI swimmers."  Ironically Richard's objectivity and sense of fairness left oldest son Kieran off the 2008 Olympic Team.  In the summer of 2008 three boyhood friends, Josh Laban, Kevin Hensley and oldest son Kieran Locke were racing at spots across the globe in an effort to achieve the required qualification time for the Beijing Olympic Games.  They were best buddies since they were little kids, and had swum with and against each other nearly all their lives. In 2008 they had the chance to do something most swimmers can only dream about:  to swim together in the Olympic Games if all three could achieve the cuts.

In July 2008 Swimming World chronicled the three Virgin Islands swimmers who were attempting to qualify for the U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic Team.  The athletes needed to achieve their "cut" by July 15 to make the USVI Olympic team bound for Beijing. Almost as if he predicted this horse race from the time the boys raced against each other as 8 year-olds, USVI Secretary Richard Locke was responsible for the determining the procedure in case only a single athlete would be selected.  Meeting the FINA Olympic "B" standard would guarantee a spot on the team, but if none of them qualify with an automatic cut, then the swimmer closest to their cut percentage-wise would be selected. 

"It is really amazing that we are all still swimming now and have come so far since we were so little and are on the edge of making our dreams of swimming in the Olympics come true," Kieran Locke said to the Swimming World reporter in the summer of 2008. "It would be incredible if we all could make it."  As neither of three athletes achieved the automatic qualifying time, only one athlete was selected to represent the USVI and eldest son Kieran wasn't the one heading to Beijing.

"Richard always praised our sport for the benefits it brought to his family and for the doors it would open including the opportunity to swim in college"   Kieran and his younger brother Morgan continued their swimming careers at Yale University graduating in 2006 and 2008.  While Dad was focused on teaching the St. Croix islanders how to swim safely, his sons were tearing up the record books and in the process qualifying to attend elite international events that took them to three different continents.  The youngest son, a fish out of water is an accomplished tennis player.

Kieran competed in the 2003 Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic, the 2004 FINA World Short Course Championships in Indianapolis and the 2005 and 2007 FINA World Championships held in Montreal and Melbourne.  He was a member of the Virgin Islands national swimming team since he was 12 and still holds numerous Virgin Islands age group and open records. In 2007 while a graduate student at the University of Bath, England, Kieran's team dominated the British Universities Short Course Championships to win the overall, men’s and women’s team titles, knocking off the team from Loughborough that had won the event every year in the 17 year history of the competition.

Morgan carried the Virgin Islands flag in the closing ceremonies of the 2003 Pan-Am games and also competed in the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janiero.  In the summer of 2005, he joined his brother at the FINA World Championships in Montreal, Canada, and then went on to compete at the World University Games in Izmir, Turkey, representing the US Virgin Islands. In 2007 Morgan attend his second World University Games in Bangkok, Thailand prior to his senior year at Yale.  Morgan traveled to Beijing see his and Kieran's friend Josh Laban compete in the 2008 Olympic Games.  Beijing was the Olympics that his brother narrowly missed achieving the qualifying standard and Laban was the USVI only Olympic swimmer.  Morgan enjoys sports writing and has been a sports writer for the Virgin Islands Daily News. In July Morgan is competing in the triathlon event at the Central American and Caribbean Games in Mayaguez, Puerto with hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

Youngest son Devon channeled his athletic ability in the sport of tennis with terriffic results. While in high school Devon continued his winning ways going undefeated in the boy's under 18 in the largest junior tournament in the Virgin Islands.  Devon recently completed his junior year at Endicott College competing on the varsity tennis team.  He and his doubles partner were named to the second team doubles for The Commonwealth Coast Conference.  Devon is following in his father's footsteps in the hospitality industry having worked during college breaks as the lobby manager at the Eliot Hotel and 5 years previously at the Bucaneer Hotel in St. Croix.

Coach Tyrell expressed his admiration for this dedicated volunteer and mentor to three accomplished sons:  "Richard made sure everyone knew of the unique opportunities that swimming for the US Virgin Islands federation could offer.  Richard often spoke about the benefits of international travel for these young athletes and of the value of cultural exchanges, the opportunity to learn other languages, meet new friends and build relationships across the world and over many years." 

"Swimming in the Virgin Islands taught the Locke boys and countless of other Virgin Islands athletes a valuable lesson:  a dedicated swimmer learns a variety of life skills that go far beyond hard work and discipline.  Swimmers embody honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility.  This was something that Richard made sure that his sons and many other young men and women learned while growing up on St. Croix as members of the Dolphins Swim Team.  There are many children and families whose lives were improved by meeting, talking and learning from Richard."  

Richard and his wife Vicky continued to officiate at the St. Croix Dolphin meets long after his kids had left the island to swim or play tennis in college. "Richard's legacy will be remembered for a long, long time in St. Croix and he will be sorely missed" emphasized Coach Tyrell.

Gregory Eggert is Media Officer for UANA.