When anthony nesty won the 100 butterfly Olympic gold in Seoul 1988I had no idea what a positive impact it would have at home.
The swimming prodigy had become Suriname’s first (and to this day, only) Olympic gold medalist, and a politically and economically struggling nation came together to celebrate his achievement.
His victory was honored again years later as the flag bearer for the South American nation at the 2008 Beijing Opening Ceremony.
After winning a bronze medal in the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992Nesty hung up her glasses and entered the world of training.
Applying the same dedication and hard work that saw him win two Olympic medals, he was eventually offered the prestigious head coaching position at the University of Florida in 2018.
It meant that I would be training the best male swimmer in the world in caeleb Dressel, recently won three individual gold medals in the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Word quickly spread of Nesty’s intense yet empathetic training philosophies, and it wasn’t long before arguably the greatest female swimmer of all time in katie ledecky decided to join Nesty’s training team in the Sunshine State.
In February 2022, he was named the head coach of the US men’s swim team. FINA World Championship 2022 in budapest
By doing so, Nesty will become the first black head coach to lead Team USA to a world championship.
Olympics.com caught up with the pioneering athlete and coach, who explained the social impact of his gold medal, why his training philosophies have attracted the best athletes in the world, and revealed the mantra that helped him break down barriers in the sport.
Olympics.com: Winning Suriname’s first Olympic gold medal made you an overnight sensation back home. Tell us about your reception and how you were able to unite a nation…
Antonio Nesty: At that time, Suriname had a lot of problems, political problems, inflation, the usual stuff for a Third World country. And I think it was probably the first time that people had something to hold on to that was very positive, enlightening. Me winning, I think it made people forget about their problems. For me, it was very gratifying to know that 53 seconds could do that. And I think at that time, people were very proud of the country, obviously they were proud of me and I was proud of them.
When I got to Suriname, I was a bit shocked. He was supposed to land and go to the football stadium. When we flew over it and saw how full it was, I was like, “Wow.” From the airport it takes about 30, 45 minutes to get to the capital, Paramaribo, but people were lining up all the way on the street, which was a special moment for me because a week before I was thinking about going back to school and go practice, but seeing that made me feel like I made a difference at that time for the whole country.
Anthony Conrado NESTY
O: You had similar success as a coach at the University of Florida. I know that empathy and individuality are important to you, but how would you describe your training philosophy?
A: The most important thing is that you have to have good people. Coaches, athletes, staff – we have core values and my thing is if you adhere to those core values, the athletes will care about themselves and the other athletes around them and so it’s going to be a pretty successful process and environment. created where to be. I tell my team all the time: Good things happen to good people, and if you have good people on your show, it might not happen this year and it might not happen next, but at some point you’re going to see success. , whether it’s in the pool, or in their afterlife skills, or in their jobs.
I tell our athletes: “It’s mind, body and soul.” Those three things have to go in the right direction because you can’t get to where you need to be without them being a cohesive unit. We need to keep the stress at a level where it’s manageable because at this level, with everything going on on social media and the expectation of these athletes to make everyone happy… kids read it and it hinders their ability to perform. at a really high level. . Constancy and moderation.
Finally, I believe that you can always learn, which I do every day. Some coaches think they have all the answers, but I don’t. I like to hear other people’s opinions on how they do things. How can Anthony Nesta improve and be a better coach, be a better husband, be a better father, be a better friend?
O: After the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021, Caeleb Dressel joined your training team in the UFL. What were the seven-time gold medalist’s impressions of him?
A: I’m a great F1 guy, I take a lot of things from that sport because those cars are very sensitive and it’s about the collective effort of the team. It’s about going fast by being as reliable as possible, just like our athletes. Caeleb is the fastest so it’s like the Ferrari as they are the fastest right now. But if you look at his career, the longevity of being at the highest levels, he’s probably a Mercedes, right? Those guys have been so successful for so long. Even when you think the Mercs are struggling right now, Caeleb has had times where he’s struggled. But at the end of the day, you have to trust your engineers, you have to trust the people in the factory. The support staff here, the coaching staff here, they will always get you back on the right track.
I think he’s probably one of the most athletic athletes I’ve ever seen. He is a freak and we see him in the weight room all the time because the guy is so athletic. He is also a thinker, and he thinks a lot, everything he does he likes to talk about it. But that’s what you get when you have really good athletes. It’s pretty fun. And the thing about Caeleb, he has a huge heart. He will go above and beyond to help anyone. If my car breaks down 30 miles from here, he’ll probably come help me nine times out of 10. That’s the kind of kid he is he.
After the Olympics I needed a break. I think that rekindled a fire in her belly once she got back into the groove, having other guys around her, having other people around her. So I think that was probably the main reason her head is where she needs to be.
O: Arguably the world’s best swimmer, Katie Ledecky, joined him in his training group soon after. What was the reason behind her change and what kind of impression has it made on you?
A: When I got the email from her saying she wanted to talk about thinking about coming here to train, she visited me and said, “I have fire in my stomach.” That just told me that she wants to keep doing this, keep doing it at a high level, obviously in a different environment. And I think that’s her motivation for her, because she didn’t like losing in Tokyo either. You know, those athletes at that level, it’s easy to motivate them if they lose because they’ll get back on the horse and do what they can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
She is an amazing person. She has a big heart, she cares about people. Just to see her in practice posting times that are, “Wow!” and beating up our boys. So that’s probably the most impressive thing. yeshe makes us better and we make it better.
O: How do you upgrade to a seven-time gold medalist?
A: I think technically he wasn’t where he needed to be for years. The most important thing for her is to feel comfortable, confident with her style, and that’s where we are because I’ve only been working with her since October. That is a work in progress. But obviously she is twenty-five years old. Rio (2016 Olympics) was probably the best match of hers. Will she be able to get back to that level? Well, we’re certainly going to try.
She gives 100 percent all the time. So we have to be careful that she doesn’t push so hard that her motor breaks. It’s good that she’s really committed, she works hard, but at some point she needs to realize that yes, she’s a machine, but she needs to realize that a machine can fail. That’s probably the hardest part for me as a coach, because she says so little. She keeps everything inside, you know, but we’re getting better at it. So she’s getting better at voicing her opinion, knowing where she is.
O: In 2021, you were named the US Men’s Head Coach for the 2022 FINA World Championships. It’s an incredible achievement to become the first Black Head Coach to lead Team USA to a Worlds. How did you feel when you were offered the position and what kind of difference do you think you can make?
A: I’m the first ever, so that’s a big deal. Looking back on my career, it seems like I’m doing first things first. I’m so thankful that I get to be the first black coach in the US and it just shows you that it doesn’t matter where you’re from or who you’re from if you do things the right way we call it the Gator Way it’s like I said before things good things happen to good people. If you’re consistent in what you do, if you’re honest, if you’re respectful, if you work hard, if you’re disciplined, if you’re honest and respectful, I think people are more willing to help you. Some teams, some coaches tend to overlook that aspect.
I tell our team all the time, if you say thank you, please, people will go out of their way to help you.
O: Such an exciting position, where you have the best athletes in the sport at your disposal, also raises a lot of expectations. How do you find that?
A: That’s why I have no hair on my head! First of all, you have to trust yourself in that particular moment. Working with talented athletes is always an added pressure. This being the US, the whole world is watching. We were quite successful at the Tokyo Olympics, where we got the most medals, and obviously the World Championships are just as important and the stakes are high. But I’m pretty sure about the staff that we’re going to have and the athletes that will be able to compete. Our goal is always to win the most medals.
US coach Anthony Nesty won 100 gold butterflies at the 1988 Seoul Olympics for Suriname.
Image from 2012 Getty Images