inducted February 18, 2006
You’d think that the great swimmers would come from Florida or California, Arizona or Texas.
Many do. But not the two greatest in Columbia history.
Cristina Teuscher came out of New Rochelle, in Westchester County, and New Rochelle High. Tony Corbisiero came out of Bayside High in Queens, and the Flushing YMCA.
One of the outstanding swimmers in New York City history, Tony Corbisiero knew where he was going to college and it wasn’t Columbia. He was headed for Harvard … until he was turned down by Harvard Admissions. Discouraged, he chose Columbia.
At the time, it seemed like a poor alternative. But three years later, he knew he had made the right choice. “… If I were offered Harvard on a silver platter,” he told the Columbia Spectator, “I wouldn’t take it. Columbia is where I belong.”
Corbisiero thrived on Morningside Heights under the direction of the Lions’ gifted and highly-enthusiastic head coach, Don Galluzzi, a native Manhattanite himself. In his first season, 1979-80, he was a member of the first Columbia swim team to defeat Princeton in a dual meet in “decades”. At the conclusion of that season, he placed fifth in the NCAA Championships in the 1650-yard freestyle; the last time a Columbia swimmer placed in a national event was 1945.
That broke the ice, so to speak. After that year, it just kept getting better and better.
From 1981 to 1983, Corbisiero won Eastern Intercollegiate Swimming League (EISL) titles in four different freestyle events. In 1981, he was the EISL champion in the 1650 freestyle; in 1982, he added the 500 free championship to another 1650 freestyle victory and in 1983, he accomplished a rare triple win, taking home the laurels in the 200, 500 and 1500 freestyles.
A month later, on March 23, 1983, the boy from Bayside won the NCAA championship in the 1650 freestyle in an NCAA, American and world-record time of 14:46.29. An All-American and All-Ivy League standout, he won seven EISL championships and set EISL records in the 500, 1000 and 1650-yard freestyle races. Nearly 25 years later, he still holds the 1000-yard mark. Twice, in 1982 and 1984, he was the high point-scorer at the EISL Championships.
Co-captain of his 1983 team, Corbisiero set Columbia records in four different events and still holds pool records at six league aquatic venues — Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Yale, Army and Navy. His name appears so many times on the pool record board at the Naval Academy, they should make him an admiral.
A four-time AAU All-American, Corbisiero set the American record in the 800 freestyle (7:58.50) in July 1982, while attending Columbia, and was ranked in the top 15 in the world in the 1500 freestyle as an undergrad. He was a member of the U.S. National Team from 1982 to 1984.
His ability to swim several different distances was just one of the reasons why he was widely regarded as one of the top swimmers in the nation during his time at Columbia.
A recipient of the prestigious Van Am Prize Medallion for his service and dedication to the University, Corbisiero graduated in 1983 with a degree in English and entered the sportswear business. By 1991, he had risen to Vice President of Sales for the Arena/Le Cog Sportif brand, and Adidas subsidiary.
The following year, however, he joined the business his grandfather, Richard Corbisiero, Sr., had founded in 1951, a catering facility in Astoria, Queens named Riccardo’s. After working under an uncle for several years, Tony Corbisiero purchased the business in 1997. He has renovated Riccardo’s into a state-of-the-art, full-service banquet facility and was recognized by the New York Restaurant Association, which named him its “Caterer of the Year” for 2003-04.
Active in community affairs, he has become a well-known figure in volunteer activities in the Astoria/Long Island City area. As Chairman of the Board of the Long Island City YMCA, he has played a principal role in raising the funds to build a new 30,000-square foot facility for the youth of Long Island City.
Tony and his wife, Janice Rae, whom he married in 1987, live in Monroe Township, New Jersey, with their two sons, Christian Michael, 10, and Anthony Michael, Jr., 6 1/2. In his spare time, Tony is a devoted yachtsman.
Incidentally, his induction to the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame marks his third entrance into such an organization. In 2003, he was inducted into both the Metropolitan Swimming Hall of Fame and the New York City Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) Hall of Fame.