Graeme Smith, the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist in the 1500 meter freestyle, has been hired as Great Britain’s new British Para-Swimming National Coach. He will be based at the newly-rebranded National Performance Centre (NPC) in Manchester.
Along with new National Team head coach Rob Greenwood, the two will lead swimmers, on deck, at the NPC, as well as in a broader global capacity.
Smith’s role back to the national-level has been an interesting one, with a diverse range of experiences in the sport that should serve him well as a “total package” coach. He first worked in an athlete support role in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, and then took a job on the sport’s dry-side, managing Olympic champions Rebecca Adlington and Keri-Anne Payne, among others.
He then returned to deck at the Loughborough ITC, where he worked with Olympians Daniel Fogg and Roberto Pavoni, specifically focusing on the distance group.
“I was very impressed with Chris [Furber] and Rob [Greenwood] and their vision for the programme moving forward,” said Smith. “I wanted to be part of this new team from the start.”
“I am looking forward to hitting the ground running and getting on deck alongside Rob to begin the work for Rio. There is a professional attitude within the whole programme and I am proud to be a part of the team.”
Greenwood, the lead of the group, said of Smith that “At the heart of the NPC is performance and someone of Graeme [sic] calibre is perfect for this role as we build the new centre and programme. You don’t win an Olympic medal without a performance mindset and he will add a great mentality to the centre.”
“He comes at this role with a different mindset after managing the likes of Rebecca Adlington, Keri-Anne Payne and Richard Whitehead who have won medals at major competitions. He will develop his coaching skills but will be on a good wavelength with the swimmers from the start.”
While Britain’s swimming hierarchy was left disappointed with the overall swimming performance at the home 2012 games, the Para-team performed quite well. They wound up with 39 swimming medals, the 5th-most overall, and at the 2013 World Championships did even better, with 55 medals and 18 gold to finish 3rd in the medals table.
With that continued success, the para-swimming industry has exploded in Great Britain, with stars like Jonathan Fox and Eleanor Simmonds building brands that stretch well beyond the pool. Rumors floating around in the para-swimming community are that some members of that team are pushing seven-figures annually in endorsements.