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Men's Swimming & Diving Headline

The head coach for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's swimming team is Florida's Gregg Troy.

Sunday June 24, 2012Troy Understands Challenges as United States Olympic Coach, With Trials to Begin Monday

The head coach for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's swimming team is Florida's Gregg Troy.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- When it comes to the Olympics, Gregg Troy is a worldly veteran.


At the 1988 Games in Seoul, Troy was an assistant swim coach with Guam. In 1992, he served as head coach for Thailand in Barcelona. He also was an assistant for the United States women’s team in Atlanta in 1996 and the men’s team in Beijing in 2008 when he helped the Americans set 11 world records and win 31 medals. 


“I went one other time when I had a credential with Venezuela,” Troy said last week from behind a cluttered desk in his University of Florida office. “It’s nice when you can go to another country and can enjoy the experience and not have a whole lot of responsibility.” 


The look and smile on his face gave away the next statement. An obvious one.  


“When you’re the head coach for the U.S., there’s a lot more going on -- and a lot more pressure,” Troy said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to enjoy much of anything until I can take a couple steps back and get away from it a little bit.” 


That will be sometimes in the middle of August. 


Troy signed away his life -- and any modicum of free time -- to his country on Dec. 9, 2010. That was the day USA Swimming and the U.S. Olympic Committee tabbed him as head coach for the 2012 Games, which open July 27 in London.


With the marquee matchup/rivalry of Michael Phelps and former Gator Ryan Lochte figuring to be among the biggest storylines of the Games, expect a lot of face time for Troy, be it with lives shots on the pool deck or during interviews for features on the American swimmers. 


“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity,” he said. “I’m hoping I can do the best job I can to put some really exceptional athletes in the best possible situations.” 


For the past 19 months, Troy has done a balancing act between his duties with the Gators and those with USA Swimming, traveling for a variety of committee meetings, touring the Olympic site and attending meets to scout potential team members. 


Now comes the pressure-packed home stretch, but the Americans are in very good hands, according to someone who should know. 


“It’s an incredible honor and no one is more deserving than Gregg,” UF athletic director Jeremy Foley said of Troy, who has headed the Gators men’s and women’s programs since 1998, winning two Southeastern Conference titles and the 2010 NCAA women’s championship along the way. “His track record speaks for itself and I can’t think of anyone else who’d be better at representing the United States and leading our athletes into the Olympics.” 


The first heat will start the morning after the opening ceremonies, with the week-long swimming among the most-anticipated events of the London games. 


It won’t, however, be the world’s most competitive meet of the year. 


That one starts Monday with the first gun of the U.S. Olympic Trials at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb., where some events will have 15 qualifying heats, but only the top two finishers in the finals will make the U.S. team. 


“First and second place go, third stays home,” said Troy, who left for the trials early Friday. “It’s one of the few meets you can go to where second is as good as first and third is the same as finishing last.” 


The depth of the competition at the trials is always so loaded, Troy said, it’s easier in to win a bronze medal at the Olympics than merely make the US team. The talent is that good, which makes the pressure to deliver -- much of it admittedly self-imposed -- that much fiercer for Troy. 


All told, 29 athletes who have been training with Troy at the O’Connell Center for the better part of the last 18 months will be in Omaha this week. That number includes the 27-year-old Lochte, a six-time Olympic gold-medalist whose last year with the Gators was 2006, and Elizabeth Beisel, who won the 200-meter backstroke at the NCAA championship as a sophomore last spring and at 15 was the youngest member of the U.S. team at Beijing.


Also in the group is a trio that swam collegiately elsewhere, but opted to prepare for their dream of making the Olympics by coming to Gainesville.  


“Some really good swimmers aren’t going to make the team,” Troy said. “Look, as good as Ryan Lochte is -- and everybody likes to sing his praises -- he’s in five events and he’s not a shoe-in in any of the five. There’s maybe one I would go to Vegas to bet on and feel pretty comfortable about. The others? There are people who can beat him. He has to be on his game. He can’t be off.” 


If Lochte is on his game, his duels with Phelps, who won eight gold medals at Beijing, six at Athens four years and arguably is the greatest swimmer of all-time, will serve as a great teaser setup for London. 


The two are down to square off in the 400 individual medley (Monday), 200 back (Saturday), 200 medley (Saturday) and 100 butterfly (Sunday) at the trials. 


“It’s great for the sport,” Troy said. “They’re going to get up and butt heads; probably swim about three or four events against each other, then they’re going to swim together in relays. As Ryan’s coach, it’s a great challenge for him. Ryan loves competition. Michael loves competition. Those guys are going to give no quarter. It’ll be fantastic. And as U.S. Olympic coach it’s even better cause I’ve got a chance to put both of them in the same relay.” 


After the last day of the trials, the swimmers that make the team will remain in Omaha for another day for a mandatory meeting. They’ll then have 48 hours to report to Knoxville, Tenn., for a 10-day training camp. 


It’s there that Troy will take off his Gators shirt and pull USA one over his head. 


“That’ll work,” he said. “The Tennessee fans won’t shoot me.” 


While most other countries have their Olympic teams set months in advance -- and thus can benefit from a full training cycle together -- the Americans hold their trials later than most and thus use training camp as a time to bond and develop the camaraderie that so often rears itself in an emotional team fashion at the Games. 


Troy and his staff will use the training camp to start determining which swimmers will be placed in which relays. 


“You’re back at work right away,” he said. “Hard work.”  


From Knoxville, the team will fly to Fichy, a small town in southern France, for a week of time adjustment and more training, albeit in a far more laid-back, tapering and restful environment than their time in the Smokies. 


The trip to London is July 24, with opening ceremonies the 27th. The swimming and diving competition will go on the first week of the Games. 


“After that, the athletes have the option to stick around and watch the Games or go home,” Troy said. “I’m coming home.” 


Where a long overdue rest will be waiting.



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