To see all of the 2014 Swammy Award winners, presented by TYR, click here.
2014 HONOREE: BRUCE GEMMELL
Bruce Gemmell of Nation’s Capital (NCAP), which recently earned top position on USA Swimming’s Club Excellence rankings, is our 2014 U.S. Junior/Club Coach of the Year.
Bruce Gemmell. Katie Ledecky. Bruce Gemmell. Katie Ledecky.
The two names have been paired together very often in what has been Katie Ledecky’s absolute domination of the mid-distance/distance freestyle events in her meteoric rise to the fastest 400m, 800m, and 1500m female freestyler ever. All before college.
We all know Ledecky. We saw her in the 800m freestyle final in London 2012. She was up against the hometown hero Rebecca Adlington, who was fresh off of a Beijing gold in the 800 from 2008, not to mention breaking the legendary Janet Evans’ world record in the event, a record that had stood just a few days short of 20 years old before Adlington smashed it. We all watched her inch ahead of the British favorite, but Adlington was right on her heels. We all wondered how she was going to keep up that pace without blowing her shoulders right off. Then, around the 500m mark or so, she took off into a gear beyond anyone else in the field (a gear which we now see pretty darn often). It was over. The last 300m was all Ledecky. New American Record and Olympic Gold. And she didn’t stop there.
She went on to take the 2013 World Championships by storm, going all the way down to the 200m free for relay purposes, and broke two more WRs and collected four golds in the process. She broke the suit-era 400m free record, previously held by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, at US Nationals in 2014 and won the 200 (over Missy!) and 800 free at that meet as well. At Pan Pacs, she shattered that 400 free record again, along with her old 1500 free record. So, there. Ledecky is awesome. We’ve seen her dominate. We love it.
But with every legendary swimmer comes a legendary coach. Bruce Gemmell is the man there coaching her every day, giving sets, shouting encouragements, offering tips to improve, and so much more. He plays a huge role in what we see in her inspirational and unbelievable performances. After she broke Pellegrini’s 400m free record at US Nationals this past summer, it was Gemmell who said “I don’t think there ever will be a perfect race,” despite Katie having called it that in an earlier interview. There’s always more work to do, for Coach Gemmell, who, did I mention, coaches for the top USA swimming club on their Club Excellence rankings?
I don’t think there will ever be a perfect race –Bruce Gemmell
Gemmell, who is the head coach of NCAP’s Georgetown Prep location, has coached some other big names on USA Swimming’s youth radar (along with his own star, Andrew, who won the 10K at the US Open Water Champs this past summer). Isabelle Rongione, one of our honorable mentions in our Swammy Award for the 13-14 Age Group, was a bronze medalist in the 1500m free at the 2014 Jr Pan Pacs and has proved herself to be an elite youth distance swimmer. Matthew Hirschberger recently broke a legendary Jeff Kostoff NAG record in the 1650y free. Carsten Vissering, who is heading to USC next year, owns the 15-16 100 breast NAG record in yards AND meters and has won a junior national title in the event to go along with his records. Gemmell has been a huge part in cultivating fast swimming and dedication to the sport from these incredibly talented athletes. His work at NCAP has certainly helped elevate the club to its current state of excellence and prowess in USA Swimming.
In addition to his crucial role at NCAP, Gemmell has been a National Team coach seven times and a Junior National Team coach ten times. He was an assistant coach for Team USA in Barcelona for the 2013 World Championships as well as in Australia for the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships. Gemmell earned honors as ASCA Coach of the Year last year as well as this year, and for us, he is our U.S. Junior/Club Coach of the Year.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)
- Chris Plumb (Carmel Swim Club)– According to the Carmel Swim Club website, the Indiana-based club had no Junior National or Olympic Trials qualifiers when Plumb became head coach. Since Plumb was given the position of head of the program in 2006, the Carmel Swim Club has made a name for itself. Plumb coached seventeen swimmers to the 2012 Olympic Trials, and it looks like there will be more come 2016. With star-potential swimmers like high schoolers Amy Bilquist, Claire Adams, and Veronica Burchill, who along with Rachel Hayden broke a 15-18 NAG record in the 400 free relay this summer, Plumb could be coaching some future Olympic talent. Carmel reached Gold status this year on USA Swimming’s Club Excellence ranking, finishing in 12th overall.
- Brian Pajer (Aquazot Swim Club)– Pajer’s work for Aquazot has been astounding. USA Swimming Club Excellence rankings had Aquazot at only 14th two years ago, but they have climbed to 9th last year all the way to third this year. That is third place behind only NCAP and SwimMAC, and they were not too far from the latter. Aquazot swimmers have broken and re-broken plenty of NAG individual and relay records over the last few years, and Pajer has coached his swimmers to go on to compete at an impressive array of NCAA programs across the country. Notable swimmers under the tutelage of Pajer include versatile Princeton swimmer Corey Okubo.