Team USA swim coach opens up about lessons learned from his father


(NEW YORK) — Anthony Nesty attributes his recent appointment as U.S. men’s Olympic swim team head coach to his hard work ethic, determination and family.

Nesty, who is also the head coach of the University of Florida’s men’s swimming and diving team, was selected to lead the U.S. men’s swim team at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics back in September.

“I tell our athletes, being a head coach and coming from a third world country, most of these kids in the states, they don’t know,” he said, speaking with ABC News. “I always realized that I had to work hard. I had to do things at a higher level, obviously, being somebody of color … all eyes are on you. From day one coming to the states, everybody doubted me and my abilities as a swimmer. But I overcame that. When I became a coach, everybody doubted my abilities as a coach, but I became head coach [of Team USA].”

The Olympic gold medalist also addressed what his late father Ronald Nesty, who raised him in Suriname, would say now about his success.

“He probably wouldn’t say much,” Anthony Nesty said. “But he underst[ood] that the lessons that he taught me, I took to heart.”

Ronald Nesty was the one who introduced Anthony Nesty and his four siblings to swimming when they were children in in Suriname, a culturally Caribbean country perched on the north coast of South America.

Ronald Nesty put a high value on discipline, hard work and consistency, his son said, and thought individual sports like swimming brought out the best in athletes because it was completely up to the individual on how well they could perform.

Still, he said, “I had no clue what training was all about until I got to the states. So, that was a big challenge for me.”

Anthony Nesty first arrived in the U.S. as a student-athlete at The Bolles School, a private prep and boarding school in Jacksonville, Florida. Swim practices there were grueling and he was competing against the best swimmers he had ever faced. Even though his father was still in Suriname, Anthony Nesty said his father’s lessons stuck with him.

“My dad was a driven man. He did everything for his kids,” he continued. “And my feeling was, and still is, I have to do everything I can to uphold the family’s name, and that’s why I worked so hard at what I do.”

Anthony Nesty used the lessons his father taught him as a child to eventually attain gold and bronze medals in the men’s 100-meter butterfly at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics, respectively. His 1988 victory over Team USA’s Matt Biondi made Anthony Nesty the first Black male swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.

His hard work later earned him his current head coaching role at the University of Florida, as well as an assistant coaching role for Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where he trained world-class swimmers such as Katie Ledecky, Bobby Finke and Caeleb Dressel.

Anthony Nesty now shares his father’s lessons with his 17-year-old daughter Lillie Nesty and his swimmers. His daughter is a qualifier for the Paris Olympic trials and in February committed to the University of Texas swim team.

“They have to believe in their ability to do things on a day-to-day basis, and when the time comes, just bring all those pieces together,” Anthony Nesty said, sharing his advice for bother Lillie and his swimmers. “You’ve got to believe, and it’s in anything in life that you do. Pretty simple.”

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