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Anthony Nesty: Inspiring History-Maker in US Olympics


They say that a great athlete doesn’t necessarily make a great coach but that doesn’t apply to Anthony Nesty. He’s a man of many firsts. He was the first black man to win an Olympic gold medal and the first black coach to take an American team to the World Aquatics Championship.

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Nesty continues to make more history. He will be the first black man to lead the US men’s team to the Olympic Games. In this article, we trace his swimming journey.

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Anthony Nesty’s Early Career

Nesty started swimming at the age of five in Suriname. Throughout his teenage years, he swam in Suriname and the Caribbean. After competing in the 1983 Pan American Games and the 1984 Summer Olympics, he joined The Bolles School, known for producing elite swimmers. 

The impact on his swimming was immediate as Nesty broke the school’s 100-yard butterfly record.  

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Professional Career

Anthony Nesty’s news on becoming US Olympic coach. Video Credit: Good Morning America

By the time he was through high school, Anthony Nesty had international swimming experience. When he returned to that stage, he kickstarted his winning streak. In the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Nesty won the gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly and a bronze medal in the 200-meter butterfly.

His next competition was the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea. In a shocking twist of events, Anthony Nesty beat Matt Biondi in the 100-meter butterfly. This made him the first black man to win an Olympic medal in swimming.

His victory was an important social and political moment. Nesty was recognized by the Suriname government, Suriname Airways who named a jet after him and had a stadium named after him. 

Nesty dominated the 100-meter butterfly, winning the Goodwill Games in 1990, the FINA World Aquatics Championships, and the Pan American Games in 1991. Unfortunately, Anthony Nesty wasn’t able to retain his Olympic title at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. 

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College Career

A preview of Nesty’s career. Video Credit: Blake M

Nesty’s career didn’t take the usual path. He was an international swimmer before he joined college and got a scholarship because of it. 

He dominated the swimming competitions at the University of Florida, winning the NCAA individual titles thrice and being an American honors 16 times.

After retirement, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame.

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Coaching Career

Anthony Nesty speaking about his career. Video Credit: SwimSwam

After his successful swimming career, Anthony Nesty built his portfolio as a swimming coach in several organizations, mainly his former schools.  

Nesty worked with the Florida Gators in different capacities. He’s been the assistant men’s coach and associate head coach, and in 2006, he was appointed the head coach of the women’s team. He works with America’s most high-profile swimmers Katie Ledecky and Kieran Smith

Due to his impeccable performance, Nesty was named the Assistant coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic swimming team in 2021. A year later, he was the first black man to coach the American team to the World Championships in Budapest. They won 45 medals and broke the previous record of 38.

History Maker 

In 2023, Nesty made more history after he was named the first black man that lead the U.S Olympic swimming team during the Paris 2024. He worked with the team as an assistant coach during the Tokyo Olympics and won 30 medals. 

In a statement, Anthony Nesty expressed his excitement about the role and teaming up with Todd DeSorbo, with whom he’s worked for a long time. 

Anthony Nesty’s impact on swimming is obvious. He’s proudly taken the responsibility of opening the door for other people and colors at different levels in the sport. His role as the head coach is key in ensuring black swimmers get a fair chance in the pool. 

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