Weir Baffled By Coaches Relay Decision: ‘I can’t make any sense of it’

2016 RIO OLYMPIC GAMES

Controversy has been abound when it comes to the decisions made by the American coaches in regards to who gets the spot on their relays in finals. There was the decision to pick Ryan Held over Anthony Ervin in the men’s 400 free relay despite Ervin splitting faster in the morning. There was the decision to leave Jack Conger, top split of the morning relay, off the men’s 800 free relay, and of course last night there was the decision to put Maya Dirado on the women’s 800 free relay despite not competing in the event at Trials.

All of these decisions had some logic behind them, and are justifiable for their own reasons. However, there was one decision that has many still puzzled.

30 year-old Amanda Weir had an amazing performance at U.S. Olympic Trials, posting her three fastest 100 frees since 2009, all consecutively faster, to finish 3rd in the final. With so many options for the Americans in the 4×100, you’d suspect that performance may even get her a bye into the final, but it didn’t.

Weir swam the prelim relay, leading off faster than her Trials swim in 53.60, the fastest lead-off split of the morning. She left that swim feeling confident she had done what was necessary to earn her spot on the final relay that night.

About 25 minutes later the news was broke to Weir that she wouldn’t be swimming in finals. She immediately was in tears.

“I was shocked,” Weir said. “I immediately started crying. I was so mad and upset because I really was shocked. I thought if I had gone 54 (seconds) flat or even 54 high, they may put Dana on (the relay), but not with my season best and not being faster than I did at Trials. I was emotional for sure, not angry or disrespectful. That’s not how I operate. … It took awhile to put the pieces together and I still don’t have that much information on (the coaches’) thought process. If you put it down on paper, I can’t make any sense of it.”

What troubled Weir maybe even more than being left off the relay was how it was handled by the American coaches. She wasn’t approached after the relay, wasn’t asked how she felt or if she thought she could go faster, the coaches just went and made the decision on their own and broke the news.

“It made me think there’s one of two things going on here,” Weir said. “One was after the prelims session and maybe Australia didn’t have as great of a race as we thought they were going to. Going into the meet, that was the biggest challenge and on paper we were going to be fighting just to get any medal. After Australia’s swim, maybe they got that taste of gold. If we have the swims of our life, maybe it can happen. I worry that the taste for gold clouded the decisions of the people in charge at the expense of the integrity of our Olympic Trials and why our sport is fair. And with the way everything happened was odd. Nobody came down to my warm-down pool. Normally a coach would come over to me and speak about my race. … None of that happened”.

“I never got any feedback from coaches. All eight of them went into a huddle, plus the national team director, and talked for 25 minutes. They never asked me how I felt, if I could go faster. Of course I would have said yes because it was the best-feeling swim I’ve had in 10 years. It makes me think it was already decided a long time ago the way it happened.”

Weir’s former Olympic teammate Natalie Coughlin, a 12-time Olympic medalist, was as confused as anyone when the news broke Weir wouldn’t be swimming the final.

“I was really, really surprised (Weir) wasn’t on the relay,” said Coughlin, “And this is in no way disparaging the people who were on the relay. The four girls who were on the night relay did a fantastic job and got a silver medal. Relays are always a really touchy subject because they are at the coaches’ discretion. Nothing in our swimming by-laws says that if you’re in this place at Trials you are on the night relay. There’s really nothing like that”.

“However, Amanda’s entire season has clearly showed she earned that spot. The prelims, the semifinals and the finals at Olympic Trials, her leadoff swim (in the Olympics) were consistently fast and should have got her that spot. … I was texting with her and just assumed she was on the night relay. There was no doubt in my mind. As someone who’s been there and knows the process, Amanda earned that spot and proved her worth. And she’s someone who’s been there numerous times and has that experience. She won her first (Olympic) medal in 2004 alongside me in Athens.”

The decision to put Katie Ledecky on the morning relay wasn’t a surprise, and she earned her spot in the final splitting 52.64 in the morning.

The puzzling decision was the addition of Dana Vollmer, who finished 6th at the Olympic Trials in the 100 free and finished behind Weir in all three rounds of the prelims, semis and final.

Adjusting for reaction times Weir’s swim in the heats out-split Vollmer’s final swim by a little over a tenth, but ultimately who swam in finals wouldn’t have mattered, as the Australians won gold by over a full second.

It was more about taking the spot away from someone who had clearly earned it, and the way it was allegedly handled by the coaches that was Weir’s issue.

Find the full article at the Gwinnett Daily Post here.

 

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loveswimming
6 years ago

This article discusses how Ervin was informed about his relay…

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/scott-fowler/article94902517.html

swammer81
Reply to  loveswimming
6 years ago

Tony is all class.

Mardo4
Reply to  swammer81
5 years ago

Couldn’t agree more. It’s all behind him now that he got the Gold in 50, but it sounds like the coaches communicated this difficult news in a better manner than Weir. Tony wins in my book!

Dino
Reply to  loveswimming
6 years ago

With almost equal morning split, the men team went to different way.
4×100 younger, Trials result higher.
4×200 older, Trials result lower.
Both old men got back half problem.
Interesting.

jungle water
6 years ago

Give the coaches some credit in their relay decisions whether they are right or wong. It looks like they have 9 coaches building a concenus in what is best for the USA team. These are tough decisions made by a group of coaches who must instill the confidence of the team that they are doing the best for all. Yes they could do a better job of communication w/swimmers but TEAM USA is all that matters in the end.
400 MR will be Sheilds in Friday am unless Phelps does not make final tonight. Remember when Phelps beat Crocker but had swam the prelim. Crocker swan final.
Medals do matter and the more USA Swimming medalists (even if… Read more »

biz
Reply to  jungle water
6 years ago

They made the decision to put Vollmer in the finals when they left her off of the prelim relay. They really should have let Vollmer and Weir duke it out for a spot but then they would have to give a free pass to the finals to either Neal or Ledecky (the latter would have made sense, in hindsight). Instead they decided they were going with Vollmer in the final, so once they left her off the prelim relay there’s pretty much nothing Weir could have done to get into the final relay.

Mardo4
Reply to  biz
5 years ago

Totally agree, Biz. It would explain why no coach came to speak with her at warm down to ask how she felt after her prelim swim or get any additional information to make a decision. I think it also explains why they weren’t the best at communicating the decision… it was overlooked because the decision had basically been made prior to prelim relay. Unfortunately, Weir did not see this coming or read the nuances. Reportedly they handled communicating Ervin not being selected for the Final relay better because I think they did actually grapple with the final selection after prelims.

Coach mary
6 years ago

This has been going on for ever. Shawn Jordan had issues when he was on the team. We had a swimmer from new York city who was our fastest swimmer and didn’t swim it at trials, was told she didn’t have to, and then they didn’t use her at Olympics. She ended up suing us swimming. There was a time when Catherine Fox was put on the relay even though in the morning she Was slower Than the older swimmer that had earned the spot. It is a difficult decision and usually not handled well.

He Gets It Done Again
6 years ago

Back in 2004, when there was a controversy over whether MP should be on the 4×100, head coach Eddie Reese let it be known that the swimmers would have to go 48.5 rolling start in the prelim relay in order to get the spot over MP, who had gone 49.0 earlier in the year. Gary Hall Jr split 48.7 and was left off. He was pretty upset, just like Weir, but at least there was much more transparency in the decision process. If the US coaches had told the prelim relay swimmers how fast they needed to go in order to get a final spot, then perhaps there would be less drama and hurt feelings.

Distant Third
6 years ago

As others have said, very poor form to be complaining while the meet is still going on. Coaches make tough decisions, and to air out grievances publicly is selfish, taking away from accomplishment of others. How is Vollmer supposed to react to this?

Further, if Weir wanted to be in finals, she should have put up a time that left the coaches with no choice. When instead you leave the coaches with a tough decision, you simply should not complain if you don’t like the decision that is made.

Gary P
6 years ago

“After Australia’s swim, maybe they got that taste of gold. If we have the swims of our life, maybe it can happen. I worry that the taste for gold clouded the decisions of the people in charge at the expense of the integrity of our Olympic Trials and why our sport is fair”

The obligation of the coaches is to put the best relay together for the finals from all the eligible swimmers; to go for the highest possible medal position each and every time. While I find the choice of Vollmer over Weir perplexing, and agree that it sounds like the situation was handled in a somewhat tactless manner, trials finish position is not and should not be the… Read more »

DAZED AND CONFUSED
6 years ago

Not sure why everyone is so upset… each individual who earned a spot on the relay at Trials ended up with a SILVER medal. Vollmer earned a spot with her 6th place finish, and was the US’s only medal shot in the 100 fly (hence not swimming in the AM).

Australian’s were taking this relay. Period. And, as many others on here have noted, Vollmer had some very solid 100 fly’s at the games. Difference between the Weir and Vollmer was a few tenths with a rolling start, at most.

If anything, the end result seems more fair to all individuals involved.

BWIAB
Reply to  DAZED AND CONFUSED
6 years ago

I see the problem being that only the final 4 receive the recognition. The podium, the photos, the glory! If this part of the Olympics is not considered important, why have a medal ceremony at all? While I’m on the subject, I hate the way NBC keeps the camera up close on the gold medal winner and might show other medal winners briefly. Why don’t all the medal winners get to participate in the ceremony? Is it because most countries don’t have the depth?

Years of Plain Suck
6 years ago

if this (Weir not swimming on the 4X100 relay) is the biggest thing that people are complaining about, then I’d say that is a major sign that the USA is having one hell of an Olympics.

We can thank all of the US coaches for preparing the team members so well since Omaha.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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