Mike Nyeholt To Receive A 2004 NCAA Inspiration Award

Dec. 18, 2003

Former Trojan swimmer Mike Nyeholt, the force behind USC's Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, has been named a recipient of the NCAA's 2004 Inspiration Award as 'a role model of perseverance.'

He will receive the award during the Honors Dinner at the NCAA Convention on Jan. 11, 2004, in Nashville, Tenn.

He will be joined at the dais by fellow ex-USC swim star Bruce Furniss, who earlier this year was named a winner of a 2004 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award, which recognizes former student-athletes who have distinguished themselves since completing their college athletics careers 25 years ago.

Nyeholt has turned tragedy into unparalleled triumph. He was a 3-time All-American freestyle swimmer at USC (1975-77) who once was ranked 13th in the world. However, in 1981, he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident.

His friends and teammates, led by fellow swimmer and roommate Ron Orr (now an associate athletic director at USC), rallied to his aid that year by staging a swim-a-thon (then called 'Swim For Mike') that raised $58,000 for a specially-equipped van. At Nyeholt's suggestion, the excess donations were used to establish USC's Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. The next year, Nyeholt joined other swimmers in the water helping raise money and the swim-a-thon became an annual event, which was renamed 'Swim With Mike.'

Now in its 22nd year, in excess of $4 million has been raised to provide 45 USC scholarships to athletes who have overcome life-challenging accidents or illnesses. Twelve of those athletes are presently enrolled at USC. The program has branched out to five other colleges in the nation.

Nyeholt, currently an accountant and financial manager, today is able to do some walking without crutches. He has received numerous national honors for the program and earlier this year was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame.

Along with Nyehold, two others will receive 2004 NCAA Inspiration Awards at the Jan. 11 NCAA Honors Dinner: Heather Denison, a volleyball player at Portland who overcame personal turmoil as a youth to earn an athletic scholarship, and Emily Miller, a former soccer player at Tennessee-Martin whose athletic career was cut short by bone cancer. Also, Jimmy Baxter, a basketball and track and field athlete at South Florida, will receive the 2004 NCAA Award of Valor for his heroic efforts in saving a father and son from a submerged car.

The 2004 Award of Valor and Inspiration Awards recipients were selected by the NCAA Honors Committee, comprised of eight college athletic administrators and nationally distinguished citizens who are former student-athletes.

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