Vassallo inducted into Broward Sports Hall of Fame

Posted on 27 November 2019 by LeslieM

By Gary Curreri

Jesse Vassallo, left, was inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame, along with (from left to right) John Cohen (Spirit of Sport recipient), Guy Harvey, Tamara James, Eddie Rodger, Roberto Luongo and OJ McDuffie. Submitted photo

Pompano Beach Piranhas Swim Team head coach Jesse Vassallo was recently inducted into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame.

He was joined by fellow 2019 inductees, including Dr. Guy Harvey (Fishing), Tamara James (Basketball), Roberto Luongo (Ice Hockey), Otis James “OJ” McDuffie (Football) and Eddie Rodger (Soccer).

“It was a surprise for me,” Vassallo said. “I have been 10 years in Broward and I didn’t expect to be recognized that quickly. I am very honored. I know some of the other inductees and they are people that I have always admired and very proud.”

Vassallo, 58, of Pompano Beach, is a three-time World Record holder and obtained his first world record at the age of 15 when he was just a  freshman in high school. In 1976, he held the world record in the 400-meter individual medley (the toughest event in swimming), and again in 1978.

In 1979, he took over the world record in the 200-meter individual medley and was also a two-time US Olympian (1980 and 1984). Equally impressive is his National 13-14 age-group record in the 1,500-meter freestyle when he was just 13 years old. This record remains unbroken and still stands as the longest U.S. National Age Group record in history – even Michael Phelps admitted to Vassallo that Phelps was not able to break the record time of 15:31.03 at that age. 

Vassallo wanted to participate in the 1976 Summer Olympics, which were held in Montreal, Canada, representing Puerto Rico, but he could not participate due to a ruling of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee that stated that “in order to represent Puerto Rico, a person must have resided on the island for at least a year. 

Vassallo was unable to attend the 1980 Summer Olympics held in Moscow, Russia, because of the boycott imposed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He competed in another competition held in the United States, which was held at the same time as the Moscow Olympics. Vassallo made better times in the 200- and 400-meter individual medley event at the competition than the two gold medalists in Moscow.

Vassallo has also been inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame, the University of Miami’s Hall of Fame, the Puerto Rican Hall of Fame, and the Japanese Swimmers Hall of Fame. He has been on the covers of Sports Illustrated, the Olympian and Swimming World Magazine.

“I went through a boycott and some political things that were very frustrating to my swimming career,” he said. “Being inducted into the Hall of Fames, it really fills up a good spot. It means you are recognized for history.”

Bucks advance to semifinals

Deerfield Beach running back Jaylan Knighton ran for 93 yds and two touchdowns on 15 carries to lead the Bucks to a 35-7 victory over host Vero Beach in a Class 8A regional final last Friday.

Knighton also became the third back to surpass 5,000 yds in Broward County history.

Knighton, who missed the past week of practice due a bruised left thigh, has 5,054 career yds and is 23 yds shy of becoming second in all-time rushing yards behind the late Tyrone Moss of Blanche Ely.

Deerfield Beach (10-3) advances to the state semifinals for the third time in four years. They will face Miami Columbus Friday on the road.

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