Swimming World Magazine’s International Swim Coach of the Year: Melanie Marshall, Coach of Adam Peaty

Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini

Commentary by Jeff Commings

TUCSON – Melanie Marshall knows what it takes to compete on the world stage, and her years as one of Great Britain’s best athletes has turned her into one of the world’s most prestigious coaches. This year, she and star swimmer Adam Peaty made big breakthroughs with surprise gold medals and a world record for the 19-year-old Peaty, and Marshall gets my pick as the International Coach of the Year.

With all reverence to Bruce Gemmell, the architect behind Katie Ledecky’s amazing year, Marshall’s work with Peaty warrants some recognition as well. In 2014, Peaty evolved from one of many also-rans in a strong group of British breaststrokers to the top of the pyramid in a span of five months.

It started in April at the British nationals, where Peaty broke the 1:00 barrier for the first time in the 100 breaststroke with a 59.79. That put him on the Commonwealth Games team for England, and one of the top five in the world. Two days later, Peaty won the 50 breast with a 27.43 to give himself his first national title.

That summer, he attended the Mare Nostrum meets in southern Europe and improved on his lifetime best in the 50 breast with a 27.19 to earn his first British record. That was just prelude to Commonwealths, where he beat defending champion Cameron Van der Burgh to the wall in the 100 breast with a 58.94, the first sub-59 second swim for a British man.

After losing out on the 50 breast gold at Commonwealths by two hundredths of a second to van der Burgh, Peaty was on a mission a month later at the European championships. In the second semifinal of the 100 breast, Peaty blazed down the pool to post a 58.68 to get within a finger’s length of Van Der Burgh’s world record of 58.46. He won gold a day later with a 58.96 to give him three swims under 59 seconds in 2014. No other swimmer could hold that distinction.

But it was in the second semifinal of the 50 breast on August 22 that set the world’s eyes on Peaty. His 26.62 beat Van Der Burgh’s world record by five hundredths of a second, and he won gold a day later with a 27.00.

And quietly pulling the strings behind the scenes all year was Marshall, the head coach of the City of Derby swim team. Not only was Marshall helping Peaty find the strength within to push to a world record and international gold medals this year, but she’s been Peaty’s primary coach since he was 12. While many swimmers have been making headlines in the past five years as they travel the globe looking for the right coach, Peaty has been one of the few in the world in the past five years to stick with what works.

Marshall is no stranger to international success. She won six medals at the 2006 Commonwealth Games for England, though none of those medals were gold. As a freestyler and backstroker she found herself on Great Britain’s team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. After her retirement from competition, she took on coaching and has found herself in what I hope is a serious conversation for a spot on Great Britain’s coaching staff for 2016. Could she possibly join American Teri McKeever as one of only two women to be the head coach of an Olympic swim team?

Marshall was celebrated by the British Swimming Coaches Association as their first female Coach of the Year. Let’s hope this is the first of many more to come.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar

    Xlnt choice, JC, Mel had a great year tutoring Mr.P.

    Now let’s see que pasa when it REALLY counts — Kazan and Rio.

    Van Der Burgh and the Aussie Christian Sprenger had down years in ’14 but I expect ’em both to be in top form next summer.

    And that goes double for the guy @ Arizona.

    If he can go 45+/1:45+ for 100-200 yards breaststroke sub-58.0/sub-2:06.0 should be a “piece of cake” in lcm!!!

    Afterall: as the old coach always said, “Access to Success is Through the Mind.”

Author: Jeff Commings

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Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for SwimmingWorld.com and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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