As we celebrate the accomplishments of Olympic Athletes, too often the contribution of mentors and team leaders, and coaches, like Hope Powell and Pia Sundhage who were profiled earlier in this series, are ignored.
Originating in San Diego as a six-mile dash, five-mile bicycle race and 500-yard swim, the modern triathlon — a recent addition to the Olympics — debuted at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games. Two years later, Andy Schmitz won a silver medal in Triathlon at the 2002 Sydney Gay Games.
USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager Andy Schmitz is the Team Leader for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team and the women’s coach. As well as coaching the women’s team, Schmitz orchestrated all logistics for the team in London and played a key role in planning for this event for the past four years. He was a member of the U.S. staff for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, and he served as team leader and head coach for the 2010 and 2011 International Triathlon Union World Championship Series Grand Final as well as the 2011 Pan American Games where the U.S. won gold and silver medals.
Named one of the alternate coaches for the 2007 Pan American Games, Schmitz never made it to those games. While riding his bicycle on a Southern California road he was brushed to the ground by an oncoming car. “I wasn’t in any shape to travel, but was named as being one of the four coaches selected for the [Beijing] Olympic job around the same time,” he told The Sun Newspapers. “A car went through a red light and went right into my path. I was going about 30 miles per hour.”
Schmitz experienced a 40-minute blackout and spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit. 30 broken bones and major injuries to his left pelvis and right wrist kept him hospitalized for two weeks.
“I was able to climb stairs and walk,” he recalled. “I couldn’t type for six weeks and could do nothing with my right arm for three months. I had to have someone open my computer and I used voice recognition software. I had access to an index finger and a thumb, so I could at least dial a phone. I was depending on others. I couldn’t pick up a glass for a long time.” But this didn’t stop Schmitz who left the
hospital a week before his doctors advised and was training at full strength 4 months later.
It is this determination to overcome all obstacles that makes Andy Schmitz such a great coach and that he passes on to team members like Sarah Groff who finished fourth on August 4th in women’s triathlon.
Stuart Wilber is a Seattle activist who skipped classes in high school to watch the McCarthy– Army Hearings. Having seen it get better and worse and better again over the years, he continues to hope he will experience full federal equality in his lifetime. *Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams
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