Sonny Tanabe-right, team mate Bill Woolsey-left
Richard "Sonny" Tanabe

Born on the Big Island, Sonny rose thru the ranks of age group competition.

While attending Hilo High School, Sonny was selected to the prestigious, National Interscholastic, All American Team.

Destined to the Olympics, Sonny attended Indiana University, and as the bottom time line shows, in 1956, Sonny is selected to the United States Olympic Team. While at Indiana University, his academics career earned him a Bachelor of Science, Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Graduate work, blossoms to a Master of Science in Physical Education degree.

A new challenge. Soon after the Olympics, Sonny enlist in the U.S. Army (1958-60) and fulfills his military obligation.

Swimming has given Sonny a chance to travel, make new friends and compete at the highest level. In return, he pursued an assistant Aquatic Director and Swim Coach at Hindsdale Township High School, Hinsdale, Illinois, 1961-62.

Returning to Hawaii, a teaching career that extends over 33 great years, at Kamehameha Schools, Honolulu. Coached swimming and water polo at the high school level. Continuing along the line of Aquatics, 30 years as an American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor, NAUI Skin and SCUBA Diving Instructor. He has given back to aquatics many times over!

Hobbies? Free dive spearfishing, board surfing, body surfing, fin swimming, SCUBA diving, deep sea fishing and Karate! Active, only as Sonny can be!


  • Island of Hawaii YMCA Corporate Board, Chairman Emeritus
  • Island of Hawaii YMCA Aquatic Leadership and Ocean Resource Committee
  • Past Chairman of Island of Hawaii YMCA Freedive Club
  • Aquatic Life and Wildlife Advisory Committee, County of Hawaii, 1995-99
  • Hawaii Freedive Spearfishing Association
  • Chairman, 1998 Blue Water Spearfishing Symposium
  • Co-chairman, Hawaii Freedive Spearfishing EXPO 2000
  • Indiana University Swimming, Hawaii Alumni
  • U.S. Olympian, Hawaii Chapter, Vice President

Outstanding Citizen, a career in Education, a life devoted to Aquatics.

 1951-1953, team member of the National Interscholastic All American Swim Team.

1952, 3rd place AAU Outdoor Championships, 300 meter Individual Medley

1953, 3rd place AAU Outdoor Championships, 200 meter Freestyle

1953, Member of the U.S. Swim Team competing in Bermuda

1953, 1st place, Mid-Atlantic Swim

1954, Hawaii - Japan Swim Meet, International Invitational.

1955, Indiana University, Balfore Swimming Award. Indiana Swimming & Diving Hall of Fame.

1955, 200 yds Individual Medley, American Record


1955-57, NCAA All American Swim Team

1956, A.A.U. All American Swim Team

1956 U.S. Olympic Swim Team to Australia

1956-57, 2nd place, NCAA, 200 yds Individual Medley

1956 - 57, 2nd place, Big Ten, 200 yds Individual Medley

1956 - 57, 2nd place, Big Ten, 100 yds Butterfly

1956, 2nd place, U.S. Olympic Trials, 200 meter Freestyle

1956, U.S. Olympic Swim Team

1957, 100 yard Butterfly, NCAA Record

1972 - 73, Master National Championships