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Roy Allen Saari (February 25, 1945 – December 30, 2008) was a freestyle and medley swimmer from the United Statesmarker, who has two Olympic medals (one gold, one silver) to his credentials.

The son of a swimming and water polo coach Urho "Whitey" Saari, he was born in Buffalo, New Yorkmarker and grew up in El Segundo, Californiamarker, where his father coached the swim team at El Segundo High School. The younger Saari starred in both sports as a high school student. At the University of Southern Californiamarker, he won nine NCAA individual championships, a record at the time. His brother, Robert, was an All-American water polo player and on the 1964 Summer Olympics water polo team.

His titles came in the 200 m freestyle in 1965 and 1966; the 500 yard and 1,650 yard freestyles from 1964 through 1966; and the 200-meter individual medley in 1964. Saari also swam on two championship relay teams. He won the AAU outdoor 1,500 m freestyle in 1961 and 1963 and was the indoor champion at 440 yards in 1962, 500 yards in 1963, 1,500 meters in 1962, and 1,650 yards from 1963 through 1965.

The first swimmer to break the 17-minute barrier in the 1,500 m, Saari won gold medals in the 400 m and 1,500 m freestyle races at the 1963 Pan American Games. He won a silver medal in the 400 m individual medley and was a member of the gold medal 4x200 m freestyle relay team at the 1964 Summer Olympics.

On events over 100 metres, he used the wide scissors kick of the trudgeon crawl – popular before 1920 – then changed to a six-beat flutter to kick it home on the final lap. Saari won a total number of 33 Nationals between 1959 and 1969. He was inducted in the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1976.

Saari graduated from USC in 1967 and earned a law degree from Loyola Marymount Universitymarker in 1973. He was a lawyer in Orange County, Californiamarker for several years and then became a real estate agent in Mammoth Lakes, Californiamarker. He also served as the planning commissioner in Mammoth Lakes for 16 years.

He died on December 30, 2008, survived by his wife, two children, and several grandchildren.


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