Greg Meehan On Why He Thinks Katie Ledecky & Simone Manuel Are Still Improving as Athletes

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Stanford women’s head coach Greg Meehan sat down with Brett Hawke on his podcast about his successes as the head women’s coach at Stanford that led him to being selected as the US Olympic head coach for the women’s team in 2020, with that role having been pushed to 2021.

Meehan has been at Stanford since the fall of 2012 and has won three national titles at Stanford in 2017, ’18, and ’19 with longtime assistant Tracy Slusser on the staff as well and Meehan explained how his dynamic with Slusser works so well (9:00) and why he does not like separating his coaches into groups.

Greg Meehan has coached Katie Ledecky since the fall of 2016 after her second Olympics with longtime coach Bruce Gemmell and has seemingly not missed a beat with the distance legend, who set the 1500 freestyle world record under Meehan in 2018 and also is the heavy favorite to repeat in the 400 and 800 free at next year’s Olympics. Meehan talked about the process behind recruiting Ledecky (12:15) and how Stanford has been able to convince so many top tier swimmers to attend Stanford.

Meehan went through a typical training week in Palo Alto and what team values have stayed constant over his tenure at Stanford (17:40) to get his swimmers to be successful in long course swimming.

Meehan discussed his gratitude for his coaching peers (21:00) growing up from when he was at William & Mary, Princeton, UCLA and Cal Berkeley, and how he has changed over his career in how he relates to the swimmers. Meehan spent four years at Cal Berkeley with Dave Durden (26:00) where the pair won two national titles in 2011 and 2012 and had swimmers like Nathan Adrian, Tom Shields and Damir Dugonjic in the water who all won individual NCAA titles as Golden Bears.

Greg Meehan talked about going from Cal Berkeley to Stanford despite the historic rivalry between the two (28:00) and the deep respect he has for Berkeley academically and athletically. In 2019, Meehan had five swimmers on the World Championships team for the United States: Ledecky, Simone ManuelKatie DrabotBrooke Forde and Ella Eastin, and he talked about how it is having so many great athletes in the same pool (30:00).

Ledecky and Manuel are arguably the two best swimmers in the entire world and Hawke asked if Meehan believed they still had room to improve (37:00) to which Meehan responded that they are still becoming better athletes even after winning Olympic gold medals in 2016 and winning World titles in 2019.

Greg Meehan brought up the story of Manuel’s 800 free relay leadoff at the 2019 Worlds where she swam a best time of 1:56.0 which would have made the final individually in the 200 freestyle. It was about an hour after her semifinal swim in the 100 freestyle where she snuck into the final, and when she touched the wall with a new best time in the 4×200 free, Meehan knew a special swim would come a night later in the individual 100 free final.

Meehan also went through Ledecky’s 2019 Worlds where she fell ill before the competition and was beat to silver in the 400 freestyle by Australian Ariarne Titmus on night one of the competition (46:00). The next day, she swam the 1500 heat but had difficulties getting her heart rate down after the race to which Meehan said he didn’t think he would see her the rest of the competition, but she ultimately came back in the 4×200 free relay to win silver and win gold in the 800 freestyle.

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