Former Kentucky All-American swimmer Izzy Gati, who just completed her fifth year with the Wildcats last season, took to Instagram this week to voice her support for head coach Lars Jorgensen while he remains away from the program due to an ongoing NCAA investigation into potential compliance rules violations.
Gati credited Jorgensen for taking a “leap of faith in recruiting me,” inspiring her to seek out community service opportunities, and helping her grow as a swimmer en route to an SEC title and runner-up NCAA finish in 2021 as a member of Kentucky’s 800-yard freestyle relay team.
“To the swim world:
I’ve learned that if you are passionate about something you need to speak up so that’s what I’m doing. I’m Izzy Gati. A former UK swimmer. I swam under head coach Lars Jorgenson. Lars has recently been highlighted negatively. THATS NOT FAIR TO HIM. He has made UK swimming the successful SEC program it is today. Most people may not know but Lars took a leap of faith in recruiting me. I was decent in high school but no where near a top recruit. He took me in and made me the resilient, fierce, and powerful young lady I am today. While I did become a multi time all American, SEC champion, and school record holder, I also succeeded in other areas of life by Lars. I was encouraged to engage in the community weekly. I joined service groups and mentoring groups with his support. I succeeded in the classroom. I got in to multiple PT schools, had a 4.0 GPA, and was always encouraged to reach high for my future. I had to work hard for my everything I had in my swimming and academic career. But I would not be where I am today without Lars. So to him I say thank you and I stand with you. The media is quick to act on the negative side but rarely will highlight the good.”
In the comments, former Kentucky swimmers including Riley Gaines and Kaitlynn Wheeler praised Gati for defending their head coach amid the recent turbulence. Mackenzie Looze, who just finished up her fifth year at Indiana, also chimed in calling Jorgensen “a gift to the coaching world.”
Another former Wildcat, JD Schurer, seemed to take a different stance: “This ain’t it 🔥”
Earlier this week, SwimSwam reported that the entire Kentucky swimming coaching staff was suspended for one week at the start of May. Swimmers were not informed of the issues until the day after the transfer portal closed for women on April 30.
Maddie Deucher, a recent New Mexico graduate who began her swimming career at Kentucky, shared a few of the problems she faced in Lexington after the article was published.
“As a former swimmer at the university of Kentucky, I may have only swam for Lars one year but the mental abuse of him, his coaching staff and the negligence of the athletic department has had a lasting impact on me and many swimmers. Here are only a few of the issues I endured during my time at UK.
I was not one of the fastest and that was ok. I was willing to work to become like the rest of my teammates. When the coaches wrote down on the board which swimmer would go in what lane I was never on the board. At first I didn’t care but as time went on, I became more forgotten in many instances and eventually felt as if I was never even part of the team, I was just a number at that point.
The bod pod they had us complete at the beginning and end of the year is probably one of the worst things they had us do aside from the practices. It examined our body fat and weight and Lars always brought up who had the lowest body fat percentage. I got to Kentucky weighing 150lbs and left 135, I developed an eating disorder, anxiety and depression.
One of the lifting sessions I pulled something in my back as I was squatting. I spoke to the athletic trainer and she said to ice and take ibuprofen. I told her my legs went numb when I dolphin kicked and she’d get annoyed every time I would come up to her about my injury. I continued swimming through this pain because I was terrified of the coaches. Fast forward 2 years, the athletic trainers at UNM diagnosed me with a bulging disc and sciatica in my lower back. Ice and ibuprofen will help that tho?? Not only was I injured but I constantly had strep throat because of the stress and anxiety I was going through. She also refused to send me to the doctor so I eventually had to set my own doctors appointments up.
I was not a traveling athlete and many of the boys on the men’s team made fun of me for it. In their group chat they said how “I was a waste of a seat on the bus” “waste of a scholarship” when I travelled to our Louisville meet. I never spoke up about this because I was terrified of the coaches. Eventually I blew up at practice and ran to the locker room crying, one of the swimmers was in the locker room and and she had told me that she knew about what the boys were saying but yet she didn’t stand up for me, but one team one family right?? When the asst coach came into the locker room I showed her the screenshots of what the boys were saying and she said I either had to leave and compose myself or get back in the pool and they’d handle it later. That’s when I decided I was tired of being quiet. I spoke to my academic advisor, and two individuals involved with compliance. They had no remorse for me and all the boys on the team got was a slap on the wrist. Our primary administrator showed up to practice a couple times to make a presence after I spoke to them about my experience on the team. I was done with the toxicity and I entered the transfer portal. Once I entered the portal I didn’t want to swim anymore. I hated the sport and everything that came with it. I thought all programs were like UK and was terrified. Once I transferred to UNM I realized college swimming is nothing like UK but a good majority of “elite” programs operate like them. It’s finally time compliance does something about this program.”