Men's Swimming & Diving Headline
GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gregg Troy took off on a well-deserved, much-needed vacation last month. Nothing exotic. When you’re one of the best in the world at your job, it means you travel the globe anyway.
So Troy and his wife took it easy. They visited some family, visited some friends, went to the beach.
The Florida swim coach chuckled when asked about that recent down time.
“The idea is to get away,” Troy said. “The worst thing is getting into a hotel and your wife asking if you want to go to the pool.”
Chances are Troy wanted to do something else.
At least for a few days.
If the man isn’t walking the deck at the O’Connell Center, he’s probably walking one somewhere within earshot of some of the most talented swimmers on the planet.
And they’re listening to him.
This time a year ago, Troy was decompressing from the pressure-packed, all-consuming experience of coaching the USA swim team at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, having led the Americans to a dominating 31 medals -- 16 of them golds -- including eight from a trio of UF-bred swimmers Ryan Lochte, Elizabeth Beisel and Conor Dwyer.
Just last month, Troy watched with pride as Lochte, Beisel and a handful of his current swimmers made headlines domestically and abroad in various national meets and then in the World Championships at Barcelona, where both Lochte, seven years removed from his UF career, and Beisel, who began her senior year Wednesday, both climbed the medal podium.
Olympians last year. World champions this year. Oh, and a stunning performance in the Southeastern Conference in between, as the Florida men’s team halted Auburn’s incredible 16-year run on the league title by capturing the SEC meet for the first time in 20 years.
Not a bad year for Troy.
Nor a bad spring board into the 2013-14 campaign that will mark his 16th season with the Gators.
“The most rewarding part of the whole thing is I think we’ve been pretty successful about being successful at each level,” he said. “We’ve been able to sustain. We had a really good collegiate season -- the men did not lose a dual meet and won the conference meet -- and we competed at the US Open and World Championships and people went home and broke some national records. We’ve been able to tie it all together and that’s a credit to the staff I work with.”
Troy, along with assistants Anthony Nesty and Martyn Wilby, have been together since arriving in Gainesville in 1997 after building the Bolles School in Jacksonville into one of the most preeminent prep programs (of any sport) in the nation.
And they’re back here again to build on this wave of momentum. As soon as water gets back in the pool, that is.
Troy, 63, sat down last week to talk about the state of his program and the international impact he’s had on the sport the last year.
Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
GZ: How special has it been for you and the program to have so many team members competing in the US Open and their respective countries’ national championships?
GT: “It’s satisfying to see folks do something special, but that special goes even further. We had a couple academic All Americans, too. People did some real good things in the classroom. I think of someone like Teresa Crippen. She fell short in the [Olympic] Trials last year, but now she’s gainfully employed and doing really well working with a non-profit. That’s fantastic. That’s supposed to be what college athletics is about: making total people. Watching them mature and go on in life is good.”
GZ: Elizabeth Beisel has been recognized any number of times for her academic achievement here -- and now, after capturing a bronze in the 400-meter individual medley, she’s medaled in four consecutive international championships. What about what she’s accomplished since coming here?
GT: “She just missed her best time and just missed the American record, but by the same token I think she can be a little bit faster. It’s nice to be third. It’s good to be second. It was better when she won it [at the 2011 World Championships]. So we have to find some ways to improve what we’re doing. But internationally, it’s a whole other world. You have people sometimes who don’t have the commitment to go to school, so it’s just a little different dynamic. She’s excelled at both.”
GZ: What about fourth-year junior Sebastien Rousseau winning the Male High Point at the US Open and posting a top-eight world time in the 400 IM? How will that translate into the collegiate season?
GT: “It was just a tremendous breakthrough for him. The year he took off to redshirt and make the Olympics [for South Africa] helped him immensely. His scope of what it takes to be a top-level international athlete has changed dramatically. He understands a lot more and he’s swimming with a lot of confidence. He has become our team leader a little bit, but in a very silent manner. He came to me when we were looking for some leadership -- when we were talking team captains last year -- and said he’d prefer not to be involved in the vocal end of it so much, but rather just come to practice and on a daily basis provide an example ... which he has done. He has made people around him better. He chose not to go to the South African trials, which left him off the [World Championships] team and two of his swims would have been final swims and very close to medaling at the World Championships. But he made a commitment for the team and part of it was where the trials fell relative to NCAA competition.”
GZ: And others see that kind of sacrifice.
GT: “It rubbed off, definitely. Dan Wallace and Edwardo Solaeche-Gomez both went home [Scotland and Spain, respectively] and swam well. Dan Wallace finaled in the World Championships and Edwardo broke the Spanish national record in the 200 IM, just missed the 400 IM and swam a tremendous 200 freestyle. A lot of that I truly believe is relative to Sebastien’s performance. He’s taken practice up a level, not unlike what Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer did years before.”
GZ: You mentioned Wallace, but what about Sinead Russell [Canada] and Hilda Luthersdottir [Iceland] and where they are after qualifying for Worlds, also?
GT: Same thing from a women’s standpoint. When the program’s leader is someone like Elizabeth, who’s consistent and very good training on a day-to-day basis, that rubs off. We have a lot of good things happening right now as far as leadership; not the vocal part, but just examples being set at practice. There’s a slightly more professional attitude with how we go about our business.
GZ: The first event for 2013-14 is the All Florida Meet, which the Gators host on Sept. 27-29.
GT: That’s a nice meet because we get to swim a full slate of events, versus a dual meet of one or two events. This a full three days, so they’ll swim six events each. That’ll give us an idea of what the young people can do and give us some good baselines for older people and where they’re starting. Then it becomes a take-off point.
GZ: I couldn’t let you get away without a question about Ryan Lochte and what he did at the World Championships -- four gold medals after basically taking six months off after the Olympics last year to do reality TV. And a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with swimming. He recently called you his “second father” and gushed about your coaching, including the decision to send him overseas to train with some other coaches as he preps for another run at the 2016 Olympics.
GT: “It’s kind of unique in swimming to work with the same athlete for 12 years; in any sport, really. But there’s a good rapport. It’s not like working with a typical college student. This is a 29-year-old man. He’s got a good feel for the sport. There’s a good exchange in what we’re doing. It’s a scenario that he trusts my judgment to put him in a good situation and I trust the information he gives me back. It’s a little more of a communal effort. ... I saw a statistic someplace that if he was to medal [in 2016], I think there have only been 14 athletes above the age of 30 to medal in swimming to do that. Now whether he swims the full program and as many events remains to be seen. Depends if his body holds up. But we’re in some unchartered waters, so we’re taking something of a different approach. We’re going to get him out of Gainesville, send him across the world a little bit to work with some other folks. I’ve got in mind some Australian coaches, some more in Europe, a couple more in the states, and all with the idea that this is his base. He comes back once in a while and we put together some knowledge and lay a real good base for 2016.”
GZ: What about the base for the Gators in 2013-14, when the dual meet, conference and NCAA seasons rolls around?
GT: “We have on paper maybe the best men’s team we’ve ever had. Again, on paper. The women’s team has a couple little holes, but it’s really young and really good. We felt we fell a little short at the NCAA meet last year. We were sixth in both and felt we should have been third in both, and we return a predominate number of points on both sides. Bottom line, you can’t be involved at a place like Florida and not have plans to win the conference meet. That’s the goal and you should have expectations of doing it. Same thing with expectations and the NCAA meet. We’re always going to be a player. How we play at the end remains to be seen, but we think we’ve got a pretty good group on both sides.”