Dave Durden

Greg Meehan, Dave Durden
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Greg Meehan, Dave Durden named USA Swimming Olympic head coaches

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Stanford’s Greg Meehan and Cal’s Dave Durden were named USA Swimming’s Olympic head coaches on Monday.

Meehan, 42, will guide the women’s team in Tokyo. Durden, two days younger than Meehan, coaches the men. Both are first-time Olympic head coaches and were assistants for David Marsh and Bob Bowman, respectively, for the 2016 Rio Games. They are the youngest U.S. Olympic swim head coaches since Mark Schubert in 1992.

A four-person committee unanimously nominated each coach, U.S. national team managing director Lindsay Mintenko said.

“[Meehan and Durden] have earned a great deal of respect among our national team members and other coaches around the country,” Mintenko said in a press release. “Our staff looks forward to collaborating with Dave and Greg over the next 18 months to put a plan in place to guide Team USA to continued success in Tokyo.”

Meehan has been Stanford’s women’s head coach since 2012, leading the Cardinal to NCAA titles in 2017 and 2018 with Olympic champions Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel. Meehan continues to coach Ledecky and Meehan, who turned professional after last season.

Durden, in his 12th season as the Cal men’s head coach, counts Olympic gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Nathan Adrian among his pupils.

Meehan and Durden coached the U.S. men and women at the 2017 World Championships to 38 medals, most by one nation in a single worlds in history.

U.S. Olympic head coaches receive the most scrutiny for relay-lineup decisions, which can be made with input from to-be-named assistant coaches. They also work with swimmers’ personal coaches leading up to the Games, including at domestic and international training camps between trials and the Olympics.

MORE: U.S. breaststroke hope tasked with ending 28-year Olympic drought

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Missy Franklin eyes new spark after swimming ‘broke up’ with her

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Missy Franklin had the worst experience of her life this summer. Honestly, she’s still processing the Rio Olympics.

“I kind of felt like swimming broke up with me,” Franklin said last week, “so now we’re trying to rehabilitate the relationship.”

The first step was deciding to return to the University of California, which Franklin announced Aug. 15 in Rio, four days after her final swim at her second Olympics.

Franklin had earned four gold medals at the London Games at age 17. She followed that up with one medal in Brazil (gold as a prelim swimmer on a relay), the nadir of a descent since she took six golds at the 2013 World Championships.

“It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, which, at 17, I thought it was,” said Franklin, whose first major setbacks were serious back spasms in August 2014.

Franklin spent her freshman and sophomore years competing for the Cal Bears before turning professional in spring 2015 and moving back into her parents’ basement in Colorado.

She has attributed her recent problems in the pool to a lack of balance out of it. The solution? Returning to a team environment at Cal (though she’s ineligible to compete for the Bears), to her college friends, to schoolwork.

It was all so familiar, except Franklin chose a different coach. Back at Berkeley in September, Franklin began training under Cal men’s coach Dave Durden rather than her previous women’s team coach, Teri McKeever.

Both Durden and McKeever have trained pro swimmers in addition to the college teams.

So why Durden?

“You learn so much just by observing on a pool deck how a coach interacts with their athletes, just the kind of coach they are, the kind of teacher they are,” Franklin said. “I always just loved the way Dave interacted with his athletes. … I’ve never heard a bad word about him. He’s obviously an incredible coach, that speaks for itself, especially with the results from this summer.”

Five of Durden’s men made the U.S. Olympic team for Rio, and three won individual medals. Most notably, Ryan Murphy swept the backstrokes, just as Franklin had done at the 2012 London Games.

This summer, Franklin failed to make the U.S. team in the 100m back and failed to make the Olympic final in the 200m back.

“Knowing that she was coming back to Cal, that we have a good professional group of athletes that look at swimming a little bit different [than college swimmers] … it was just a really good fit,” Durden said.

Natalie Coughlin, the predecessor to Franklin as Olympic 100m back champion, made the switch from McKeever to Durden after the 2012 Olympics and found benefits in training with men.

Coughlin, 34, has “popped in and out” of training since missing the Rio Olympic team, Durden said. Franklin has traveled some while taking online classes. She’ll enroll on campus in the spring.

When Franklin returns to competition, some time in 2017, it will be after the longest break between meets of her career. For now, she’s finding peace in training.

“I’ve never enjoyed going to practice so much,” said Franklin, whose book about her upbringing and swimming, “Relentless Spirit,” comes out Dec. 6. “It’s almost therapeutic in a way. Swimming is like my counselor at the same time. It’s a time where I can go and think about what’s going on in the world, think about my classes, about midterms coming up. Or it’s a time where I can just go and think about absolutely nothing at all. I don’t know what I would do without that time every single day. I also do it to inspire others. I truly feel like God has given me a gift for this sport, and it’s what I’m meant to be doing.”

She still thinks about her homecoming from Rio, seeing a lawn full of messages from neighborhood kids scribbled on paper hearts. Notes from one struggling young swimmer stood out in particular.

“She told herself to keep her head high and keep pushing forward, because that’s what she watched me do at the Olympics,” Franklin said. “Stuff like that makes it worth it.”

Franklin has always tried to make the 100m and 200m frees and the 100m and 200m backs her program at major international meets. Could that change?

“We haven’t even gotten there,” Durden said. “Right now it’s just doing the day-to-day.”

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