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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Leonardmatt
5 years ago

This actually pisses me off wtf david marsh

2Fat4Speed
Reply to  Leonardmatt
5 years ago

Amanda has a history of underperforming on relays. She is a bad teammate for going public during the competition too.

Dan
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
5 years ago

Agreed, read my comments below

swim dawg
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
5 years ago

Not sure this counts as public. She has not said anything on social media I do not think. Just answered questions after it came up. This is an issue that has cost America the gold in previous Olympics and needs to be addressed. Create some by-laws like Natalie was talking about.

HulkSwim
Reply to  swim dawg
5 years ago

you can’t do that- you need to make decisions based on the event that meet.

if the men/women’s 4×100 free’s situations were reversed- i.e. the men were heavy underdogs to an on point squad, and the women looked the most consistent and there wasn’t a clear cut favorite- I’d have gone with Ervin and Weir, respectively.

But the women needed the highest ceiling swims possible to possibly win gold. It didn’t work out. That’s the way it goes. But they put their best gold hope relay out there. They were solid for silver, regardless of who swam it.

The men needed the 47.6-47.9 from Held. They couldn’t take a chance on a 48.8 from Ervin, but in the reverse scenario… Read more »

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

There wasn’t a clear cut favorites?

What are you smoking?

The Aussie women were heavily favored to win gold, the rest were only fighting for minor medals.

HulkSwim
Reply to  Attila the Hunt
5 years ago

re-read my post. i said if the situations were reversed, and then proceeded from there.

Ole 99
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
5 years ago

Agree on the last part… Not the time for this.

Dan
Reply to  Leonardmatt
5 years ago

The relay discussion is a hot topic. I want to better understand the USA process and look at the past Olympic Games to gauge decision and trends.

Can someone find another story in the media where one of our swimmers spoke about not being in a relay? Gary Hall Jr in 2004 comes to mind for the 4 x 100 Free Relay being replaced for Phelps.
We know how vocal Hall was back in the day.

Is it a unwritten rule not to talk publicly about coaches relay decisions at the Olympics?

A non-e mouse
5 years ago

This and the Jack Conger issue… American coaches only putting the big names on relays to attract the most attention from the media/NBC. Disgraceful

SwimGeek
Reply to  A non-e mouse
5 years ago

I’ve seen this theory repeatedly and it’s proven FALSE by the fact that NBC golden girl Missy Franklin was not swimming in finals last night. The coaches removed the superstar because she’s struggling this meet. They made the hard decision to go with Dirado and she showed she was the right choice.

meeee
Reply to  SwimGeek
5 years ago

the only problem with that theory is that Franklin is swimming poorly across the board while Conger and Weir are swimming very well.

HulkSwim
Reply to  meeee
5 years ago

very well is relative. Lochte beat Conger in prelims, Weir was good for her, but not good enough- we didn’t need a 53.2-53.4, we needed a 52.6, and Vollmer was a better chance at that.

the idea that the coaches screwed up by dreaming of gold medals is so ridiculously absurd I can’t even begin to understand it.

OF COURSE they are making decisions to win gold. if they weren’t they should be sent home immediately.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

Vollmer was never to go 52 in any ways – did she even get to the 52 in a past relay ? from my memories , she never got to the 52 mid or high in a rolling start . Poor decision i say

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

When did Vollmer ever go 52.6? or anywhere near that?

Bob Vitti
Reply to  A non-e mouse
5 years ago

Could not agree more. Well said.

HulkSwim
Reply to  A non-e mouse
5 years ago

wrong- they put the fastest people on the relay. Using the morning splits minus reaction time, which is how it’s ALWAYS done so guys don’t feel compelled to jump early, Lochte beat Conger. Conger got pulled for Phelps, which anyone who wants to have that debate, well… I just can’t help you there. Phelps swims. Period.

swimswammer
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

People having no idea how the relay selection process has ever worked complaining about the relay selection process.

Vollmer over Weir is a sketchier choice, but there’s not even a question in my mind about the decisions they made on the men’s side.

Maverick
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

Like bob said above. Could not agree more.

weirdo
5 years ago

Dana dropped a lot in fly that day from Trials so probably rationalized that she would drop in free too. These decisions are tough for coaches….I get that….but someone (a coach or Frank Busch) should have communicated what was happening and why.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  weirdo
5 years ago

Totally correct – there is something missing about communicating their decisions motivations .

Lp Man
5 years ago

This is hypothetical. ..what if Tommy Shields beat Phelps by .01 in 100 fly semifinal and final. Who thinks Bowman would actually put him on the final medley?

Kid
Reply to  Lp Man
5 years ago

He wouldnt

Lp Man
Reply to  Kid
5 years ago

I agree

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Kid
5 years ago

I agree too – he would still put Phelps ( for his own personal Olympic Fame )

Scott Morgan
Reply to  Lp Man
5 years ago

Consistency is the issue I think. One has basically never let down a relay or underperformed; the other has rarely NOT cracked under pressure.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Scott Morgan
5 years ago

Wait wut. I can’t remember any bad Shields swims, just some pretty good ones. (His two fly this week notwithstanding.)

Sven
Reply to  Scott Morgan
5 years ago

Shields is very consistent in the 100 fly.

Joel Lin
Reply to  Lp Man
5 years ago

Absolutely not. And that about says it all. The US needs to stick to a clear process. Right now there is one, the Olympic Trials results, but for some time the coaches have used that as a guide and not rule.

I have kids who do other sports. Rarely will you leave a youth baseball, basketball, lacrosse or soccer match where parents aren’t questioning why one kid played so much but anothe didn’t enough. The good thing about swimming has always been this isn’t a sport where a conversation about someone wins…it’s only what you do in the pool. It appears that has simply gone out the window in Rio moreso than in past cycles. That’s a problem.

HulkSwim
Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

this isn’t youth soccer. it’s the olympic swimming finals. they are making gold medal decisions. and they’ve not got it wrong yet.

swimdawg
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

6th at trials gets a free pass to finals without earning it? Lochte at least swam in the prelims relay.

HulkSwim
Reply to  swimdawg
5 years ago

she earned it by swimming really well in fly and probably doing a great job at camp. the relay happens earlier in the meet and you have limited info. from my pov, vollmer has way more upside potential in this relay situation, being what it was- chasing the aussies and hoping for a slip up.

SWIM DAWG
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

If they divided this during camp after seeing a good practice or pace set then that is wrong on the coaching staff. At least with the Phelps play they had him get up infront of a packed crowd at Atlanta and have him time trial. And he at least attempted to earn the spot. We saw nothing of Volmer. Doesnt mean it didn’t happen. But we heard about many other time trials sitting camp.

Bevo
Reply to  Lp Man
5 years ago

If Shields is the #1 American, he’s on the relay

Swim Chick
5 years ago

I understand why Amanda would be upset, but also it could’ve been that Dana has been on more of these relays and therefore may of gone with experience. I’m not completely sure, but I hope that Amanda is still happy with her prelims swim and this does not cause any drama between her and Dana. Best of luck the rest of the games ladies!

weirdo
Reply to  Swim Chick
5 years ago

Dana said this was the first time she had been on this relay. I think it was just a matter of poor communication by the staff.

HulkSwim
Reply to  weirdo
5 years ago

she’s been on almost double digit international 4×100’s. first one at olympics.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  weirdo
5 years ago

It seems Dana is lying openly . She has been on many of those 400 free relays ….Dana , your credit is getting down with this fluke comment

swim dawg
Reply to  Swim Chick
5 years ago

sounds like this is not an issue with weir and vollmer. it is an issue with weir and coaching staff.

Swim Chick
Reply to  swim dawg
5 years ago

You’re right, and I do agree that the coaches should’ve explained this to Amanda, that is where they were wrong. But I do believe they made the right choice by putting Vollmer on the finals relay.

SWIMGUY12345
5 years ago

This was really wrong. I really feel bad for her. Talk about one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Unfortunately, this happens. In 2012 if we leave Grevers on after the morning (47.5 split) instead of putting Lochte, we probably win gold, but not definitely. The only reason this is being swept under the rug is because Australia was by far the better team. We were most likely getting silver regardless as the article said.

HulkSwim
Reply to  SWIMGUY12345
5 years ago

we were getting silver regardless- but in a dream scenario we needed one of the younger girls to lead off in 52.8, the other go big with a 52.5, the fourth girl to go 52.8 and Ledecky to go huge with a 52.5, and even then we would need Australia to falter.

They didn’t and we didn’t go crazy. But we had to try- and Vollmer represents the best hope of the non-Weitzel/Manuel/Ledecky crew to go 52.8.

If the coaches are trying to win gold, they shouldn’t be there. Just let Hy-Tek build our relays and let some mom’s and dad’s be back there with them as the staff for hugs and kisses.

BWIAB
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

needed one of the “younger” girls – NOT COOL

Double A
Reply to  HulkSwim
5 years ago

If Weir has a really good relay start (.13 or better) she is going 52.9 with the SAME SWIM she did earlier THAT DAY, and probably more often than not, her night swim would be faster, giving her more upside than even 52.9. She was always more likely to go 52 than Vollmer. I don’t know who thought Vollmer was going to go 52, but she was NEVER going faster than 53.1, and Weir was likely not going to go slower than 53.1.

team Rwanda
Reply to  SWIMGUY12345
5 years ago

In 2012, the difference between Grevers’ swim and Lochte’s was 0.2. It wouldn’t have been enough to beat France

Kalen Darling
5 years ago

Perhaps Anthony Ervin encouraged the coaches to put Ryan Held on the relay, seeing it as an opportunity to give the newcomer some valuable experience in an Olympic Final. If that was the case, Ervin is a class act.

PVSFree
Reply to  Kalen Darling
5 years ago

And even if he didn’t, the coaches spent 6 weeks with these swimmers and may have figured that Held is more consistent, and Ervin couldn’t recreate that split. Ervin’s splits were a little insane too, 21.6/25.9 if I remember correctly

swimdoc
Reply to  PVSFree
5 years ago

Agree. You don’t want someone dying coming into a relay exchange.

teddy
Reply to  Kalen Darling
5 years ago

Ervin is a class act already. Would love to see him take back the gold in the 50 free.

swim4fun
Reply to  teddy
5 years ago

In a tie with Nathan Adrian

Stephen
5 years ago

Prop up Katie and Michael medal tally…Period

coacherik
Reply to  Stephen
5 years ago

Katie was on that relay regardless as of the end of that prelim swim. MP was swimming well in camp, that was a gut decision that paid off. This situation with AW and DV is not related to the other two. Just piss poor communication.

Byers
Reply to  Stephen
5 years ago

Stephen, I think you missed the point of the entire article… The discussion has nothing to do with Ledecky or Phelps — both of those swimmers backed up their inclusions on the relays with the splits they swam. Your comment is not relevant

SwimGeek
Reply to  Stephen
5 years ago

Stop trolling. Ledecky’s 52.6 > Weir’s 53.6. (I know the article is about the Vollmer choice, not Ledecky)

HulkSwim
Reply to  Stephen
5 years ago

oh, you would be ok leaving the two fastest people on the team off relays? sounds logical.

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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