USA Swimming Announces 8 Assistant Coaches For Tokyo Olympics

by Robert Gibbs 176

June 20th, 2021 National, News, Tokyo 2020


USA Swimming has officially named the 8 coaches who will be Team’s USA assistants for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. They’ll be working with women’s head coach Greg Meehan, men’s head coach Dave Durden, and head open water coach Catherine Kase.

This is a departure from the last several Olympics, where only 6 assistants were officially named to the roster. Even with the expanded coaching roster, there were a few surprises, including the fact that the Sandpipers of Nevada head coach Ron Aitken wasn’t named to the roster, despite the Sandpipers’ women’s impressive showing in the distance free, as Erica Sullivan (1500 free), Bella Sims (4×200 free relay), and Katie Grimes (800) all qualified for the team. Additionally Bowen Becker doesn’t train with Sandpipers, but did as an age grouper and currently represents the club as a paid pro, as does Blake Pieroni. Both Becker and Pieroni qualified in the men’s 4×100 free.


– Aitken and the Sandpipers are operating the best women’s distance group in the country, and none of them have even begun their college careers yet. Sims and Grimes both are bumping elbows with names like “Ledecky” in the all-time 15-16 rankings, and Sullivan, who has twice deferred the start of her college career, realized her full potential this week. Not to be overlooked – this is one of the youngest Olympic teams that we’ve had in a long time. In 2016, Katie Ledecky, at 19, was the youngest swimmer on the team. This year, there are many pre-collegiate swimmers on the team. While experienced collegiate coaches like Greg Meehan and Dave Durden and others on the staff could surely pivot and work with age groupers, their current coaching style is attuned to the needs of 18-30 year olds. Athletes who have been in college, who have raced in international meets, who are dealing with more adult issues. Having a coach on deck who is working with age groupers day-in and day-out will be a huge asset for a young squad. Becker doesn’t train with Sandpipers, but did as an age grouper and currently represents the club as a paid pro.

There’s no set criteria for how Team USA selects the assistant coaches, but generally, the slots seem to go to coaches who put several swimmers on the team, or those whose swimmers have the best shots at taking home medals. It’s also worth noting that in some cases, it is possible that coaches may have been offered a slot on the team, but turned it down for one reason or another, although we have been told that this was not the case for Aitken, as he was not asked to be a coach.

Braden Keith contributed to this report.

Bob Bowman, Arizona State

  • Hali Flickinger – 400 IM, 200 fly
  • Allison Schmitt – 200 free

Bowman’s no stranger to the USA coaching rankings, having been on staff at the last four Olympics, but will be his first Olympic coaching assignment without Michael Phelps as one of the US swimmers. This time around, he’s coached a pair of post-grad women, Hali Flickinger and Allison Schmitt, to the team. But it’ll bet a familiar event lineup for Bowman, as Flickinger qualified in the 400 IM and 200 fly, and Schmitt in the 200 free, all events in which Phelps made the Olympic team multiple times.

Todd Desorbo, University of Virginia

  • Paige Madden – 400 free, 4×200 free relay 
  • Alex Walsh – 200 IM
  • Kate Douglass – 200 IM
  • Catie DeLoof – 4×100 free relay

After leading the Virginia women to their first-ever NCAA title last season, Desorbo’s Cavaliers were on-fire at the Olympic Trials as well. Madden, for example, won 3 NCAA titles. Walsh came to Virginia as a National Teamer already, but didn’t show any signs of slowing down in her first season in Charlottesville. Douglass came to the Cavaliers with sprint accolades, but blossomed into one of the most versatile swimmers in the country in her 2 seasons under Desorbo. We knew the Cavaliers were talented, but this group has done very well translating short course into long course. DeLoof joined Cavalier Aquatics last summer as one of just a handful of post-grads training who have trained at UVA under DeSorbo, and she’ll head to Tokyo as a member of the 4×100 free relay team after finishing 5th in the 100 free. 

Ray Looze, Indiana

  • Lilly King – 100 breast, 200 breast
  • Annie Lazor – 200 breast
  • Zach Apple – 100 free, 4×100 free relay, 4×200 free relay
  • Michel Brinegar – 800 free, 1500 free
  • Blake Pieroni – 4×100 free relay

Looze has been a fixture on US teams over the last few years, and it’s no surprise to see him here after putting two women and two men on the team, all-post grads. Annie Lazor and Lilly King went 1-2 in the 200 breast, and King won the 100 breast, the event in which she’s the world-record holder. Zach Apple and Blake Pieroni have been the backbone of the US free relays since Rio, and Pieroni will make his 2nd-straight Olympic team in the 4×100 free, while Apple will get an individual swim after finishing 2nd in the 100 free. Michael Brinegar represented Mission Viejo and apparently has been training with them, but he swims for Indiana collegiately

Terri McKeever – California

  • Abbey Weitzeil – 50 free, 100 free
  • Katie McLaughlin – 4×200 free relay

McKeever has been another fixture in the US coaching ranks, having served as the women’s head coach in 2012 and on numerous other international teams before and after then.  Abbey Weitzeil won the 100 free for the 2nd-straight Trials and missed winning the 50 free again by a mere 0.01s, while Katie McLaughlin made the team in the 4×200, an event in which she’s been a familiar face over the last 6 years.

Peter Andrew, Michael Andrew Swim Academy

  • Michael Andrew – 100 breast, 200 IM, 50 free

This was the one that everyone was talking about all season. It would have been almost-unprecedented to leave the coach of an athlete who qualifies in 3 individual events off the American Olympic staff. But at the same time, we know that Peter Andrew, while he has done an incredible job of tinkering and tweaking the USRPT methodology with his son Michael, has the least experience of those on the staff in working with a diverse group of athletes, something that Olympic coaches are often called on to do. But, Peter is the coach of a swimmer who is now authentically an American star. He’s a guy that’s easy to get along with. And, frankly, more-and-more coaches are doing things that resemble USRPT, so Peter will have plenty of athletes to work with in his wheelhouse.

Jack Bauerle, University of Georgia / Athens Bulldogs

  •  Chase Kalisz – 200 IM, 400 IM
  • Jay Litherland – 400 IM
  • Andrew Wilson – 100 Breast, 200 Breast
  • Nic Fink – 200 Breast 
  • Olivia Smoliga – 4×100 free relay
  • Natalie Hinds – 4×100 free relay

The Georgia post-grad group had a stellar meet, as six swimmers qualified for the Olympic Team. The four men come through in a very specialized set of events – Kalisz and Litherland in the IMs, plus Nic Fink and Andrew Wilson in the breaststrokes. Smoliga and Hinds qualified for the women’s 4×100 free relay after 3rd and 4th place finishes in the 100 free. Additionally, Georgia alums Allison Schmitt, Hali Flickinger and Gunnar Bentz made the team, although all currently train elsewhere. Bauerle brings a wealth of experience to the staff, and over the last 20 years has also proven to be one of America’s best women’s freestyle coaches as well. Bauerle has been on U.S. Olympic Team staffs in 2000 (women’s assistant), 2016 (men’s assistant), and 2008 (women’s head coach).

Anthony Nesty, Florida

  • Kieran Smith – 200 free, 400 free
  • Bobby Finke – 800 free, 1500 free

The Gator long course tradition hasn’t missed a beat under Nesty since Gregg Troy retired from coaching at the University of Florida to focus on post-grads.  Smith and Finke are both American record holders in yards who’ve also been able to get it done in the big pool, as between the two of them they swept the longer four freestyle events.

Gregg Troy, Gator Swim Club

  • Caeleb Dressel – 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly

Like Peter Andrew, Troy only has one athlete on the team, but again, it’s someone who has qualified in 3 events, and that’s Caeleb Dressel. Besides coaching one of the biggest stars in the world of swimming, Troy brings plenty of experience to the table, having previously served on three U.S. Olympic teams and was the men’s head coach in 2012.

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1 year ago

Ron Aitken, LSU,

Anybody’s thought change now after Trials…come on band wagon, “he’s a club coach”, “experience issues”. Blah blah blah. Sandpioers program been producing for some time now.It appears he has coached circles around many collegiate programs with much less….

Athletic Directors are you listening?

Reply to  Wallace
1 year ago

It’s possible that nobody in our sport has been doing a better job than Ron. Getting a group to want to work and look for more work is a gift.

I think the 20 hour limit would be a challenge, but he has shown the ability to motivate his athletes to train.

1 year ago

Unpopular Opinion: Club coaches create the foundation of all future college athletes. The only reason college coaches are praised is due to their “recruiting” of high-level talent that would be where there are today with their previous team.

This shows the lack of support and the obvious political gain college coaches have in the sport of swimming. There is a fine line between building talent and growing talent. ALL club coaches deserve more from USA Swimming. They deserve to be recognized for their dedication to their young athletes – especially when their athlete is named to the Olympic team.

Unfortunately, club coaches suffer consequences because they are seen as less than compared to their college counterparts. If resumes could… Read more »

Reply to  ClubCoachSupporter
1 year ago

This is not only a popular opinion but the right opinion. USA Swimming fails to recognize this. Or maybe they don’t want to recognize this. Clubs pay the bulk of the membership dues, splash fees, officials fees, FRAUDULENT insurance fees and COACHES fees to pay for the overpaid executive salaries. Coaches and clubs should complain about this and maybe organize a boycott in the payment of these fees until they get straightened out.

Last edited 1 year ago by Guerra
1 year ago

i don’t think it’s appropriate for bob bowman to be a coach for the olympic team when allegations of him sending inappropriate texts to athletes was confirmed true. usa swimming, as the governing body of our sport, should lead by example and forbid him from coaching team usa. there are many other coaches that should be in his place – the sandpipers coach, for example. i’m bummed and sad for the athletes who spoke up about bowman and were just told that his record speaks for itself and if it had “happened today” that they wouldn’t appoint him.

Reply to  confused
1 year ago

I agree. If Bowman had any class, he’d withdraw from consideration of Olympic team coach and just try to make an effort to do a good job at Arizona State. Unfortunately, the man is smug and arrogant and thinks he can do, say and text whatever he wants. Everyone on the banned list and people that have been suspended should be complaining about this gross display of hypocrisy.

Official Swammer
1 year ago

No Sandpiper Coach Ron? Dude got robbed!

Rowdy Gaines
1 year ago

The lack of Ron Aitken on this staff is pretty insane. The guy had 3 first timers qualify, all of whom are younger swimmers that will certainly be a big part of the future of USA swimming in these 200 and up races. Leaving him off is some serious disrespect.

1 year ago

Hali and Schmitty are Bulldogs in sheep’s clothing! 😉

Reply to  Floater
1 year ago

Hali maybe but Allison has been with Bob since like 2007 or maybe earlier. But definitely. Neither are sun devils

Jeffrey Powers
1 year ago

Anthony Nesty deserves all the freestyle credit. Thank goodness he was picked. Not only a great coach but a mentor. He flew to Vero the day before the COVID shutdown to speak to my kids at and it was riveting for all 150 disadvantaged swimming children mostly of color to relate to the last thing they heard before pools were closed “commit and execute every day, no excuses, if you want it you have to work hard, listen to your coach and you can then do it” Thanks Anthony we hope to see you again and we’re all rooting for you because your the absolute best!
Jeff Powers
Float Hope of Indian River County

Reply to  Jeffrey Powers
1 year ago

Setting aside all concept of “deserve” and pretending as though USA Swimming is actually trying to assemble the most effective staff – did they need both Nesty AND Troy on staff?

Reply to  swimapologist
1 year ago

No. Nesty should have got the spot and Troy should have stayed home.

Reply to  swimapologist
1 year ago

Between the two of them, they account for 50% of the event wins on the men’s side, so yes.

1 year ago

Who would have been left off if only 3 per sex?
Taking 4 is a kick in the butt for previous Olympics coaches that got left off because only 3!
Did Regan not making 2 back the reason Parrato didn’t get to go?
Bob should have been picked as ABSC/Georgia assistant and not as ASU coach! They didn’t have a great meet and they had all year to focus on it! He has been there long enough to get them to this level! Todd got UVA there in a much shorter time!

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

Bowman doesn’t like being in a team environment, anyway. He’s only going to want to pay attention to Flickinger and Schmidt and ignore the others.

Reply to  Guerra
1 year ago

USA Swimming wants a portion of your club’s membership dues and fundraising dollars to pay for their executives, but when it comes to putting your Coach, who put Olympic swimmers on the team, you’re screwed.

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

Since when is placing women 1 and 4 in 2fly (with multiple best times) considered a “bad meet?”

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