Who’s Coaching Team USA? The Candidates for the Tokyo Olympics Staff

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Lilly King's coach Ray Looze will be considered for the Olympic team coaching staff -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Who’s Coaching Team USA? The Candidates for the Tokyo Olympics Staff

With six out of eight days at the United States Olympic Trials complete, the Olympic team has begun to take shape, and enough swimmers have begun to qualify in multiple events to allow second-place finishers to be added to the women’s team, with the men’s team poised to add more swimmers once Caeleb Dressel adds more events to what should be a busy Olympic schedule.

With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at which coaches will be selected to join the official Olympic staff for training camp and the Games. The guidelines to identifying potential members of the staff are fairly simple: Which coaches put the most swimmers on the Olympic team, and which coaches’ swimmers will make the biggest impact at the Tokyo Olympics?

Cal men’s coach Dave Durden and Stanford women’s coach Greg Meehan were selected as head men’s and women’s coaches of the Olympic team, respectively, in late 2018, although those nominations were essentially locks years before. That covers the primary coaches for several of the top swimmers on the team. Durden coaches backstroke gold medalist Ryan Murphy and Meehan is responsible for Katie Ledecky. In addition to those two, three coaches will be picked to primarily focus on the men and for the women.

So let’s take a look at some of the primary candidates.

Gregg Troy

This is an obvious option for this list since Troy is the primary coach for Caeleb Dressel. Dressel has only qualified for the team in the 100 free so far, but he’s expected to add the 100 fly and 50 free to his slate before the meet ends. Troy is no longer the head coach at the University of Florida, focusing solely on the pro group, so he is not directly responsible for freestylers Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke, so that might earn a second Florida coach a look here, such as Gators head coach Anthony Nesty or associate head coach Steve Jungbluth.

Ray Looze

Lilly King is the most established star qualified for this Olympic team outside of Ledecky, so her coach, Indiana’s Looze, is a good candidate here. Looze could end up on the women’s staff or the men’s since he has also placed Zach Apple, Blake Pieroni and now Annie Lazor on the team for the Tokyo Olympics.

Mike Parratto

Regan Smith is seen as a virtual certainty to qualify for the Olympic team in the 200 back Saturday, which would give her three events for the Tokyo Olympics, more than any swimmer besides Ledecky. She still owns the 200 back world record, and she will be a contender for medals (some of them gold) in all three individual events as well as on the 400 medley relay.

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Georgia coach Jack Bauerle with Texas women’s coach Carol Capitani at Olympic Trials — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Jack Bauerle

The Georgia Bulldogs have been on fire all week, and they have now qualified six swimmers for the team: Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland, Andrew Wilson, Nic Fink, Olivia Smoliga and Natalie Hinds. That’s by far the most swimmers of any coach in Omaha. Bauerle had Melanie Margalis miss out, but he deserves credit for helping Fink and Smoliga each bounce back from very disappointing third-place swims earlier in the week to get onto the team in the last couple days. Kalisz, in particular, is a medal favorite in the I.M.s.

Todd DeSorbo

No coach has had a better year than Todd DeSorbo. The Virginia coach led his women’s team to an utterly dominant performance at the NCAA championships and the Cavaliers’ first team championship, and now his team has officially placed three swimmers on the Olympic team, Paige Madden in the 400 free and on the 800 free relay and Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass in the 200 I.M. Catie DeLoof also trains at Virginia, and she could be added to the team as a 400 free relay alternate.

Bob Bowman

Bowman has been on the last four Olympic team coaching staffs as the primary mentor to Michael Phelps, but an Olympics nod this time would be for the women’s team. He has placed Hali Flickinger on her second Olympic team—this time as a gold-medal contender in the 200 fly—and also Allison Schmitt on her fourth.

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Texas men’s coaches Wyatt Collins and Eddie Reese, who is not interested in coaching for the U.S. team at the Olympics — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Eddie Reese

After his last meet as the head coach at Texas, USA Swimming might want Eddie Reese join the team for one last hurrah. So far this week, Reese has three swimmers on the team: Townley Haas and Drew Kibler in the 200 free and Gunnar Bentz (in a huge surprise) in the 200 fly. However, Swimming World has learned that Reese is not interested in joining the U.S. staff.

Peter Andrew

Peter Andrew has just one swimmer who has qualified for the team, his son Michael, but Michael will be a big-time player for the Americans as a medal favorite in the 100 breast and arguably the gold-medal favorite in the 200 I.M. The drawback for Peter’s case on the team is that he coaches just one swimmer in a very unique, specific training style (USRPT). That works for Andrew, but it seems unlikely Durden would assign Peter to coach an entire group of swimmers either in that style or an unfamiliar style, so we’ll see if this ends up being a fit.

Ron Aitken

This one could be a longshot, but Aitken has placed Erica Sullivan on the Olympic team as the second-place finisher in the women’s 1500 free, and Bella Sims is likely to be added as a relay alternate in the 800 free relay after finishing fifth in the 200 free. Sims will also be a contender to qualify for the team in the 800 free, where she was the second-fastest qualifier for the final. Coaches that are primarily age group club coaches are rarely considered for Olympic team spots, but maybe no team has been more surprisingly impressive this week than Aitken’s Sandpipers of Nevada.

2 comments

  1. avatar
    PAUL SZUSZKIEWICZ

    My vote is for Ron. Working with our next generation greats.

  2. avatar
    Ray Farrell

    You don’t want to split up Michael Andrew from his coach heading into Tokyo. Other than Dressel & Ledecky, he is our best hope for multiple medals. He is also the NEXT USA OLYMPIC STAR.
    USA SWIMMING would be wise to bring Peter Andrew to Tokyo as a coach.