Competitor Coach of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based coach who has risen above the competition. As with any item of recognition, Competitor Coach of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one coach whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a coach who was clearly in the limelight, or one whose work fell through the cracks a bit more among other stories. If your favorite coach wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.
Of Team USA’s six individual Olympic medalists on the men’s side (through six and a half days of competition), three have University of Florida ties.
Current head coach Anthony Nesty doesn’t necessarily get credit for alumnus Caeleb Dressel, who trains with former Gators coach Gregg Troy. But Nesty, on staff as an assistant during Dressel’s years, helped current college standouts Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke become two of the more unlikely medalists for Team USA.
Smith and Finke have always seemed inherently connected – they joined Florida the same year as freshmen, rose through the ranks together, smashed American records at 2020 SECs together, and saw their breakouts stalled by the coronavirus pandemic together.
This week, they became Olympic medalists together under the tutelage of coach Nesty.
Finke shocked the field in a photo finish to become the first men’s 800 free gold medalist in Olympic history. The new event was a barn-burner, with Finke setting American records in both heats and the final, besting Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri by three-tenths of a second.
Smith pulled off a bronze medal in what was widely considered one of the weakest events for Team USA – an event where the U.S. had to scrape just to field two Olympians under FINA qualifying rules. Smith came up with his best swim when he needed it most, going 3:43.94 to take bronze in one of the most thrilling finishes of the Olympics so far.
Smith also swam an inspired 1:44.74 leadoff on the 4×200 free relay, putting an American foursome who were clearly underdogs into the thick of the hunt early in that relay. The team wound up fourth, but Smith had the best leadoff leg of any swimmer in the field.
Smith also made the 200 free final, finishing 6th, and Finke will swim in the 1500 free final tomorrow. Coach Nesty’s swimmers have shown up in force in the NCAA – and now they’ve done the same on the Olympic stage.
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