On Sept. 7, legendary Maui waterman, swimmer and coach Keo Nakama died at the age of 91.
As two of the “original ditch boys from Camp 5,” Nakama and schoolboy friend and fellow swimming legend Halo Hirose learned to compete in Maui irrigation ditches under future Olympic swim coach Soichi Sakamoto. In college, Nakama swam for national championship teams at Ohio State University. He went on to capture the world record for the 100-meter freestyle and won five Pan Am Games gold medals. At age 41, Nakama was the first person to swim the Molokai Channel. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame.
In 1946, the inaugural Keo Nakama Invitational was held in the salt water of the War Memorial Natatorium, drawing thousands of spectators. It is considered the longest-running annual invitational meet in the country. The photo above, circa 1955, shows the Natatorium lanes installed and flags flying for the famous meet.
Here is an obituary that appeared on the website of Swimming World Magazine.