The Rio Olympics were David Marsh’s fourth as a swim coach, and his first time as head coach of the U.S. women swimmers. But for Marsh, who lives in Davidson, Brazil was extra special.
Eight U.S. medals came out of SwimMac’s Team Elite, the team that trained in Charlotte and included athletes like Anthony Ervin, Katie Meili and Kathleen Baker, all of whom were greeted by family, friends and fans Sunday at a dinner in Cornelius.
“It’s one of the most emotional, fun things I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been to a lot of swim meets, several Olympics, and this one topped them all because as head women’s coach, I felt like I could affect the team culture,” Marsh said at the Port City Club.
Conspicuously absent from Sunday’s celebration were Ryan Lochte and Jimmy Feigen, two of the swimmers embroiled in a controversy over an unusual story about an armed robbery that Lochte admitted to have exaggerated.
Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist, began an apology tour late last week via Instagram, Brazilian TV and NBC. And Feigen last week agreed to donate almost $11,000 to a Brazilian charity to get his passport back after officials seized it.
“I’m just glad Jimmy’s in the United States, and I’m glad to hear Ryan’s beginning to apologize,” Marsh said.
In all, seven American athletes from Team Elite competed in the Rio Olympics. Marsh said they became like best friends before, and even more so during, the Olympics.
Meili, who won a bronze medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, said she is now “like sisters” with Baker, her roommate for the duration of the Games who won a silver medal for the 100-meter backstroke.
Their six-woman suite in the Olympic Village – which also included Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, Maya Dirado, Katie Ledecky – raked in a total of 18 medals.
The swimmers helped American female athletes reach a staggering statistic: Had U.S. women competed as their own country, they would’ve ranked fourth among all nations in the overall Olympic medal count, and tied for second in the gold-medal count with 27, according to Team USA.
“It’s one of those eight-day marathon events, and we didn’t want it to end. We could have swam three more days and won a whole lot more medals,” Marsh said.
Marsh said he’ll likely be involved in coaching the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but he doesn’t want his athletes thinking about that yet.
“Right now you celebrate and you review what you did and say a lot of thank yous. That’s all I’m asking them to do. I don’t want them thinking about Tokyo right now,” Marsh said.
That’s not exactly the case for at least one. Ervin won a gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle, making the 35-year old the oldest swimmer to ever win a medal. He won the same event back when he was 19.
“I’m definitely looking toward 2020 and Tokyo. Whether or not I have the distinction of being able to represent my team, my country, my people as an athlete? Yet to be determined. But I will be there,” Ervin said.