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Former UCLA Star Toring Dies at 23

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jim Toring, a former UCLA and Harvard-Westlake High water polo player, died Monday at a hospital in Clichy, France, one week after being struck by a bus on a Paris street. He was 23.

Toring never regained consciousness after suffering a severe head injury in an accident on April 13. He was walking with other members of the U.S. national team when he stepped from behind a parked bus and into the path of an oncoming bus. He was reportedly thrown about 30 feet.

His parents, Hank and Sandy Toring of Simi Valley, were at his bedside through the weekend as doctors tried to relieve pressure from cranial swelling.

“He was fighting so many different things at once,” said Rich Corso, who coached Toring at Harvard-Westlake and maintained daily phone contact with Toring’s parents in Paris. “His heart stopped. They tried to revive him and he didn’t come back. He just couldn’t fight anymore.”

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Thomas Hudnut, headmaster at Harvard-Westlake, informed students of Toring’s death during a morning assembly at the Studio City school and read a verse from the A.E. Housman poem, “To an Athlete Dying Young.”

“Virtually everybody knew him by reputation and knew he was a great guy and outstanding athletic talent,” Hudnut said.

Toring was considered the No. 1 high school water polo player in the nation when he graduated from Harvard-Westlake in 1993.

“He was a prodigy in water polo,” said Bruce Wigo, executive director of U.S. Water Polo.

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Toring played for the U.S. national team at the FINA World Cup in Athens, Greece, as a high school senior in 1993. He was competing in a tournament with the national team at the time of the accident last week.

He led UCLA to NCAA championships in 1995 and 1996, earning co-most valuable player honors in ’95 and scoring the winning goal in the ’96 final. He was one of the last players cut from the U.S. Olympic team in 1996 and was expected to play in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

“We feel a big loss here at UCLA,” Bruin Coach Guy Baker said. “It’s devastating for water polo. We’re a pretty small community, and it reaches all levels.”

Corso fought back tears Monday. He coached Toring for almost 10 years, starting at Harvard-Westlake, then as coach of the U.S. national team.

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“We got extremely close,” Corso said. “When he had the ball in his hands, he was great. When he didn’t have the ball, he was brilliant. At Harvard, he was such a free spirit. He’d come to the pool each day, clap his hands, put up his fists and yell, ‘Let’s go.’ That kind of attitude spread to other kids.

“He was happy-go-lucky, but when you added water to him, he became a different kid.”

Steve Snyder, water polo coach at Royal High in Simi Valley, remembered a 9-year-old Toring learning the sport from his older brother, Rob, who played water polo at Royal.

“He was just the little kid hanging around the pool,” Snyder said. “I was very aware how talented he was. I feel he was headed for greatness on the national team, but it never seemed to get to him and become overwhelming to his ego. He was just a real nice guy.”

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Rob died of an illness in 1996. Toring is survived by his parents and a sister, Sarah. Funeral arrangements are pending.

U.S. Water Polo is assisting with the family’s travel and hotel expenses, and UCLA has set up a fund to defray medical and other costs.

Checks can be made out to Hank and Sandy Toring, c/o Guy Baker, UCLA athletics, P.O. Box 24044, Los Angeles 90024.


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