‘He was always our biggest supporter’; Rochelle family remembers father who died in Madison swimming race

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MADISON, Wis. (WTVO) — A 51-year-old man from Rochelle man has died after participating in a swimming race in Madison on Saturday.

According to the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, Michael J. Hahn was pulled from the water after another swimmer alerted a lifeguard that he was unconscious.

Hahn was participating in the Big Swell Swim Race on Lake Monona around 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

“He was a man that loved to swim,” said his daughter Ashley Hahn.

Michael Hahn unexpectedly passed away doing what his daughter says he loved most–swimming.

“Everything just circles back to swimming,” said Ashley. “Very unexpected, however, it’s a bittersweet moment when we found out it had been through swimming, through something he loved so passionately. You don’t get to choose those moments in anyone’s lives, but of course he had to choose swimming I guess.”

Hahn often took part in swim meets.

“He’s always doing a meet, it was never a surprise when he was like ‘Oh I’ve got a meet this weekend,” Ashley explained. “He would be so excited to tell us about a meet he was in, and he would always joke around and say ‘us old people got to stay in shape too.”

“When my brother and I were younger he tried to coax us into swimming, we did the best that we could but never could make what he did.”

Hahn’s fiance, Leslie Ciacco, said Saturday’s competition was one he knew well.

“Actually the course that he passed away, he’s probably swam that exact same route probably 8 times,” she explained.

Ciacco and Hahn were swim teammates when they first met.

“We were on the Rockford YMCA Masters swim team,” Ciacco said.

“He loved going to Rockford and joining their swim team so much. It was a little bit of a hike for him, but he used that time in between driving to and from Rockford as a chance to call my brother and I and just like check-in,” Ashley added. “We’re going to make sure his memorial is giving back to his swimming community.”

Ciacco was in the water participating in the race with Hahn on Saturday.

“I finished my race… before we raced he said he wanted to do the race under an hour, and I finished at 37 minutes because I was doing a short and so I just sat on the grass and waited and looked for him and when an hour went past he never came in,” she explained.

Ashley says her dad not only loved to swim, but was a hard-worker and loved woodworking.

“All these woodworking pieces that our family gets to keep forever really help his legacy live on,” she said. “He was always our biggest supporter, and he’s a man that’s going to be greatly missed.”

According to authorities, Hahn was taken ashore and life-saving efforts were utilized before he was transported by ambulance to a local hospital, where he later died.

An autopsy was conducted on Sunday, and the Dane County Medical Examiner said additional testing is underway.

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