Honoring the Life of a Legend, Sue Ahlf

by USA Artistic Swimming

Sue Ahlf’s interest with synchronized swimming began in 1946 at the Athens Club in Oakland, California when Betty Brandlein and Hall of Famer Dawn Bean sparked her excitement. She became a volunteer with the U.S. Synchronized Swimming Pacific Association. In 1955, Sue founded the Soltau Swim Club in Danville, California and became an official synchronized swimming judge. After several successful years, the club dissolved, and she worked with the Howell Swim Team. 
But in 1968, she founded the Walnut Creek (CA) Aquanuts. She coached the club until 1980 when she moved to Hawaii. To date, Walnut Creek has won 30 U.S. National Championships and is coached by her Hall of Fame daughter, Gail Emery. While in Hawaii, Sue introduced synchronized swimming to the islands and hosted two each Pan-Pacific Games, Far Western Meets and U.S. National Championships. 

Sue, also known as Sue Bear, is an internationally ranked judge, synchro clinician and manager for two U.S. junior national teams. She is now involved in Sacramento’s (CA) recreation league teaching the basics of synchronized swimming to more than 600 athletes each year. She holds a B.S. in Recreation Management from Cal State Hayward. Sue is a 1983 U.S.S.S. Hall of Fame inductee and a current member of the U.S.S.S. Board of Governors. She is a tireless volunteer who has devoted her life to the advancement of synchronized swimming. 

There is one thing anyone involved in the sport could agree on, which is that Sue had an unbelievable love for synchro. Sue was never paid for coaching or any of her other time judging, doing clinics, teaching, National Team manager, meet manager for domestic and international competitions or any other job she volunteered to do.  All for love of sport and her synchro family. Although Sue had to retire from regular coaching in the 80’s she would always show the support to the national team through sending snacks, US flags and pins for every competition. She believed with all her heart that USA Artistic Swimming National Team will make an appearance at the 2024 Olympics. To express her belief to the team, Sue sent the team 12 Ty beanie bears accompanied by USA pins over each one of their hearts before the team's departure to the Pan American Games this past October. 

Sue was a visionary who bonded everyone within the sport to create lifeline friendships. She will truly be missed and remembered by USAAS and our community. 

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