Anthony Nesty Breaks Multiple Barriers as First Black U.S. Head Swim Coach

When Anthony Nesty was named the head coach of the men’s team for the 2022 Budapest World Championships, he made history in multiple ways.

The most culturally significant is that he becomes the first Black swim coach to lead a U.S. team into the World Championships*.

*Editor’s note: USA Swimming can confirm this to be true at least as far back as they have existed, which is 1980. There were three editions of the World Championships prior to that, and none of the head coaches of record at those meets were Black. There were previous meets that were identified as “World Championship” events, but they are not recognized by FINA as World Championhips.

Nesty’s selection was no affirmative action pick either: he, along with Todd DeSorbo, who is leading the women’s team to Budapest, is one of the two most on-fire coaches in the country right now, and is arguably at the top of the global food chain as well.

Nesty coached swimmers Bobby Finke and Kieran Smith to Olympic medals, with Finke pulling off a surprise 800/1500 double in thrilling come-from-behind fashion.

Since the Olympics, the United States’ two most-decorated swimmers in Tokyo have joined Nesty’s group: Caeleb Dressel, who was training previously in the same pool but under former Florida head coach Gregg Troy; and Katie Ledecky, who made the post-Tokyo move from Stanford where she trained under Greg Meehan.

In total, those four swimmers have a combined 16 Olympic gold medals and 20 total Olympic medals. Throw in a bronze by Natalie Hinds, who was training at Georgia pre-Tokyo but has also now joined the Gators post-grad group, and the Nesty-lead staff is now the epicenter of the swimming universe, at least in the Western Hemisphere.

He has broken barriers before: that 1988 Olympic gold medal made him the first Black male athlete to win an individual Olympic medal.

That’s not the only barrier that Nesty is breaking by this selection.

As an athlete, representing Suriname, Nesty was the 1988 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 fly, 1992 Olympic bronze medalist in the 100 fly, and 1991 World Champion in the 100 fly.

While great swimmers have become coaches before, very few great swimmers have become great coaches before.

Almost all of the 10 coaches officially on the American coaching staff at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, for example, were competitive swimmers of some repute. Teri McKeever was a 10-time All-American at USC. Jack Bauerle was a school record breaker at Georgia, where he’s now the head coach. Ray Looze was 3rd at the Olympic Trials. Greg Meehan won some MAAC conference titles on relays at Rider University. Todd DeSorbo was the CAA Swimmer of the Championships in 1999 at UNCW. Dave Durden was the 1997 Big West Conference champion in the 200 fly. Peter Andrew was a national-level swimmer in South Africa.

Gregg Troy and Bob Bowman are the only two who don’t list any of their own athletic accomplishments in any of their official bios. Bowman was a conference-level swimmer at Florida State.

Nesty, though, is one of the few individuals in history to have both won an Olympic gold medal and to have coached an Olympic gold medalist. At a minimum, we couldn’t think of any other American coaches who have done so. Some have come very close (George Breen, for example).

Last summer, we attempted to crowd-source a list, and we came up with a few: Jill Sterkel, who won relay golds in 1976 and 1984, coached Whitney Hedgepeth at the University of Texas. Rick DeMont, who had an Olympic gold medal stripped, coached a number of Olympic gold medalists while an assistant at Arizona. He was coached in turn by another Olympic gold medalist, Ann Curtis.

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2 years ago

Does this stuff really matter? Whether, it’s a job as a coach or anything else, I don’t care if the person is a man, a woman, white, black,blue, Christian, Muslim, whatever. Is the person very good at the job? That’s all that matters. First, 100th, one millionth — don’t care.

NW Coach
Reply to  Tony
2 years ago

For other coaches of color it absolutely matters, once there is a first there can be a next.

Coach Huggies
2 years ago

My childhood hero and the reason I took swimming seriously.

2 years ago

I’m pretty sure you can count Karen Moe (1972 gold medalist in the 200 fly) because she was the head women’s coach at Cal from 78-92, and at the very least, that would have been during the time Mary T swam there.

Flyers apparently make great coaches.

Corn Pop
2 years ago

I remember Anthony from LA & noted there must be a good swim base in Surinam after Annelies Maas break out . I thought then the Caribbean should be a successful swim region in its own but not if everyone gets poached .


Last edited 2 years ago by Corn Pop
2 years ago

Really awesome!

Side note – I watch Belair and was really frustrated by how swimming was shown. One of the main characters is a black girl swimming in scholarship for the fancy school who is going to Olympic trials. The problem 1. The swim practice isn’t realistic. Since there is no one else there and she only swims two laps. 2
The actress can’t actually do a real start or swim at level past red cross lessons.

Could they not find an someone to do the swimming parts for her or get some local LA team to be extras for the practice???

tea rex
Reply to  Xman
2 years ago

You’d think they could just go down to USC, UCLA, etc, and say “who wants $200 to make some swimming B-roll?” A swimmer could maybe even get a “stunt double” credit – with a cap, you only have to be vaguely the same skin tone/body type.

Reply to  tea rex
2 years ago

Or even – hi who wants to be in a big show produced by Will Smith? We need 20 people. And cast for a black actress with swimming experience (just your high school team will do) to stunt double

Reply to  Xman
2 years ago

Yep lol

2 years ago

Are there any non-American coaches who have coached a gold medalist but also won a gold medal? Just wondering. Can’t think of any just now.

Reply to  Joel
2 years ago

i can think of sergio lopez but he neither won gold (bronze), nor did he coach schooling when he won gold.
he did coach him before and after tho i think

Reply to  Joel
2 years ago

Sergio Lopez coached quite a few gold medalists but “only” won a bronze I guess.

Last edited 2 years ago by NCSwimDad
Reply to  Joel
2 years ago

Has Martin Zubero coached any gold medalists?

Reply to  Joel
2 years ago

He doesn’t quite fit the bill, but Marcel Wouda won a World’s gold (in fact, the Netherlands first) in 1998 (and Olympic bronze in 2000, plus swam – I think – 2 WRs) and coached Maarten van der Weijden and Ferry Weertman (both olympic golds), and coached Femke Heemskerk and Ranomi Kromowidjojo at some point (I’d have to check on timing – but he definitely didn’t coach either when they won their respective olympic medals)

Last edited 2 years ago by Koen
Scotty P
2 years ago

Much respect for this guy.

Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

Terrific choice.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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