WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
April 9, 2011
In an emotional farewell on a sun-drenched Saturday, family, friends, swimmers and coaches celebrated the life of Michael Lohberg during a funeral mass and reception.
The six-time Olympic coach died Monday at age 61 after nearly a three-year battle with aplastic anemia.
Lohberg and his staff built the Coral Springs Swim Club program into one of the nation’s best and placed at least one swimmer on every Olympic team since 1984 and won nine Junior Olympic team titles.
The service was presided by Father George Puthusseril at the St. Andrew Catholic Church in Coral Springs after a viewing Friday night at T.M. Ralph Funeral Home.
Inurnment will take place at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetary on Sunday.
“Love is stronger than death,” Father Puthusseril said. “What gives us comfort is our faith. We are celebrating his faith, celebrating his love and celebrating his life.
“Michael Lohberg was a committed, dedicated, hard-working coach. He gave 150 percent of himself to what he was committed to do.”
Father Puthusseril was a source of comfort for mourners throughout the service.
“The greater the love, the greater the grief, the greater the pain,” he said.
“Time is a great healer for family and friends who will come to accept Michael is not here anymore. It doesn’t mean that we won’t stop loving him. Death cannot take away the love from our hearts.”
Pall bearers were co-head coach Bruno Darzi, Dave Cowmeadow, Chris Jackson, Andrea Di Nino, Christopher Lohberg, Jimmy Lohberg and Vlad Polyakov.
Most of his swimmers sat together and consoled each other during the service.
Among mourners were Coral Springs vice mayor Claudette Bruck; City Commissioner Tom Powers; Romanian Olympic medalist Noemi Lung, who Lohberg coach at Mission Bay; USA Swimming National Youth Team head coach Jack Roach and Florida Gold Coast coaches Dick Cavanah, Jay Fitzgerald and Mariusz Podkoscielny.
During the reception at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex, swimmers and coaches talked about their fondest memories of Lohberg including three heart-warming presentations from Polyakov, Darzi and Roach. Lohberg’s wife, Biggi, presented Di Nino, who flew in from Italy, and Darzi each with one of Lohberg’s stopwatches.
Before the mass, swimmers, coaches and officials thirty miles away preparing to compete at the Swim Miami were observing a moment of silence for Lohberg, who race organizers dedicated the event to.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING ABOUT COACH MICHAEL
FLA wishes the Lohberg family and our friends at Coral Springs Swim Club strength and peace on the passing of Coach Michael Lohberg. You fought a very brave fight Michael. Now it is time to rest. We will miss you very much.
Duffy, Barbara Dillon and the Whole FLA Family
RIP – Coach Michael Lohberg (1950-2011)
Very sad news for the swimming community. One of the most recognized international swimming coach Michael Lohberg died today. Michael will always be remembered as one of the best coaches and mentor to many generations of great swimmers that swam under him. Our sport will miss you.—Davie Nadadores
On behalf of all of us at The Race Club, I want to express our sadness over the loss of Michael. He was a superb coach, but more importantly, a superb human being. His loss will be felt by all of us in the sport of swimming. Please express our condolences to his family and know that they are all in our prayers. Sincerely, Gary Hall Sr.
Pine Crest Swimming Mourns the Passing of Coach Lohberg: A sad day in the swimming world as Coach Michael Lohberg passes.
“My first memory of Michael was watching him on the deck with his swimmers and seeing what a compassionate, caring man he was.”—Dara Torres
Swimming World Magazine readers responses:
April 4, 2011 RIP Michael. You will be missed!
Submitted by: just me
April 5, 2011 Michael was a brilliant man who loved what he did. Ask anyone that swam for him and they will tell you they loved him. Rest in peace and God bless Biggie and the kids.
Submitted by: dwagnercoach
April 5, 2011 Knowing Michael goes down as one of the top pleasures I’ve had in my life. We shared a similar sense of humor that leaves me with great memories. He was a 2nd Father to my son. Incredibly caring, selfless. Saying you will be missed Michael doesn’t even come close.
Submitted by: Sean1966
April 5, 2011 swimming and living with Michael was a true honor that I would have never wanted to miss…he was an excellent coach and wonderful funny man that influenced greatly my life. He will be greatly missed in the world of swimming…
my love and strength go to Biggi and the kids
we will never forget you, Michael you will always remain in our hearts
Nancy Arendt Kemp
Submitted by: Nancy Arendt
Distinguished Olympic swimming coach Lohberg dies at 61
By Linda Robertson
Michael Lohberg, who coached swimmers at six Olympics during his distinguished career, died Monday after a nearly three-year battle with aplastic anemia. He was 61.
Lohberg coached world-class and age-group swimmers at the Coral Springs Swim Club and South Florida Aquatic Club. He coached five-time Olympian Dara Torres during her comeback. Eight of his athletes representing five countries competed at the 2008 Beijing Games and he was coaching several prospective 2012 Olympians.
“My first memory of Michael was watching him on the deck with his swimmers and seeing what a compassionate, caring man he was,” Torres said.
Lohberg was diagnosed with the rare blood disorder that damages bone marrow and weakens the immune system just before he was to travel to the Beijing Games. He continued to coach his swimmers over the phone even though doctors told him he might only have days to live. He underwent experimental treatment at the National Institutes of Health.
“He still sent me workouts while he was in the hospital and I always let him know what was going on in Beijing,” Torres said.
Lohberg, known for his candid wit and analytical vision, coached swimmers who qualified for every Olympics from 1984 through 2008. They held dozens of national records for Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, Kazakhstan and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Lohberg was a native of Germany who coached the SSF Bonn club to national titles before he moved to jobs in St. Croix, Boca Raton and Coral Springs. He had a math degree from the University of Cologne and degrees in physiology and physical education from the Deutsche Sport Hochschule.
“He had an amazing rapport with his athletes,” said John Leonard, executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association in Fort Lauderdale. “He was a stroke genius who was able to look at a swimmer in the water and make changes that had a major impact. He loved the sport but he loved kids even more. His loss is a tragedy for swimming internationally and in South Florida.”
He is survived by his wife Birgit (Biggi), daughter Stephanie and son Christopher. Funeral arrangements are pending. A second Coach Michael’s Fight 3K Run/Walk fundraiser is scheduled for May 21 at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com