Mark Lenzi, an Olympic gold medal winner in diving, died on Monday at the age of 43 in Greenville, N.C.
Lenizi was the last American male diver to win an Olympic gold medal, in 1992. For the past two weeks, he had been hospitalized due to low blood pressure.
USA Diving is truly saddened by the passing of Olympic champion Mark Lenzi, chairman Bob Rydze said in a statement. As an Olympic gold and bronze medalist, Mark was one of our country's greatest divers, and he will be missed tremendously.
Lenzi won the gold medal in the 3-meter springboard competition at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He won two bronze medals at the same event during the 1996 games in Atlanta. Lenzi also who won eight national titles and two World Cup gold medals and was the first diver to score more than 100 points in a single dive.
These accomplishments didn't just happen.
Born July 4, 1968, in Huntsville, Ala., Lenzi did not look like the typical champion diver. He stood only 5-foot-4 and was more muscular than those he competed against. But he had talent and was able to spin faster than most others.
He had unbelievable physical ability, but it was nothing compared to his determination, said Olympic teammate Scott Donie, who is now the diving coach at New York University, according to the Free Lance Star. If you'd tell him that something wasn't possible, he just wouldn't listen. He didn't care.
When I first saw him, I never thought he'd amount to much as a diver. But he worked so hard and wanted it so badly. I always smile when I think of him. I was in awe of him.
Still, he wasn't always attracted to diving. In high school, Lenzi was an avid wrestler.
Mark came from a wrestling background and the goal of any wrestler is to pin you, former Olympic teammate and current Texas diving coach Matt Scoggin told USA Diving, reported the Associated Press. When Mark got into a contest, he was going to pin you.
Lenzi became captivated with diving after Greg Louganis' performances during the 1984 Olympics. He quickly changed sports and became an all-star athlete.
In 1989, he swept Big Titles in the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform competitions while attending Indiana University, reported the AP. He was selected as the NCAA's diver of the year in 1989 and 1990 after winning back-to-back 1-meter national championships.
This was only the beginning for Lenzi, who was just emerging on the national and international scene.
The diving world has never seen anything like him, and probably never will, said Donie, according to the Free Lance Star. He came from out of nowhere, and in three years, he was World Cup champion. That's unheard of. And within six years, he won the Olympics. It was unbelievable.
Lenzi's victory at the Barcelona Olympics gave the United States its third straight title win in the 3-meter board competition. He retired briefly after tose games, but elected to return to the sport to twin the bronze medal in 1996.
Since 1996, no American male diver has taken home the gold.
After ending his career as a diver, Lenzi took up coaching and helped four divers win championships in their age group with Indiana's junior diving team. He also coached men's and women's divers at East Carolina from 2009 to 2011.
Three weeks ago, Lenzi reportedly began complaining about random spouts of dizziness and fainting. He took himself to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. His mother told the Free Lance Star that his blood pressure fell to 78/48. He lost consciousness and never woke up.
Doctors said Lenzi had a blood clot and were they were unable to stop the internal bleeding. He died on Monday at 4 a.m. with his mother in the room. Lenzi also is survived by his wife, Dorothy.
USA Diving's official website has offered friends and fans to post condolences for Lenzi's family. Greg Louganis, whom Lenzi admired so dearly, left a comment on April 9 at 7:50 p.m.
Mark and I spoke just a few weeks ago, my heart goes out to you, Louganis wrote on the USA Diving site. There are no words to express how heartfelt a loss this is. Healing hugs, Greg.