The Olympics is still the largest sporting event in the world. That the US Track & Field team is the team with the most Olympic wins is not as well known. Well it is. And for a coach in the sport of track & field, the pinnacle of the sport is being named to the Olympic Track & Field coaching staff.
It is also the job where one is either ignored if all is good, and blamed for everything including global warming if the relays drop a baton or an athlete has a problem. Such is the nature of our sport, and global sports in general, that the job of being on the Olympic Track & Field coaching staff is exciting and problematic all at the same time!
There has been a lot of excitement about Amy Deem and Andrew Valmon being named Olympic coaches. RBR asked Elliot Denman to write pieces on both Andrew and Amy. This is his piece on Andrew Valmon and watch for our upcoming piece on Amy Deem!
Last weekend, when I asked Nike coach of the year Brooks Johnson, about the Deem and Valmon being appointed as Olympic coaches, he smiled and said that Andrew Valmon and Amy Deem will be great Olympic coaches because they know what to do and not to do!
ANDREW VALMON STORY (updated 2.24.11)
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
Route 70 may be the busiest East-West thoroughfare in Central New Jersey.
It winds it’s way from Point Pleasant Beach, on Ocean County’s slice
of the Jersey Shore, all the way to Camden, and a good view of the
Follow its curves a half-hour in from the Atlantic and you’ll see the roadside signs welcoming you to Manchester Township.
For Olympic fans, for track and field fans, for plain old Manchester
citizens heading to work or the shopping malls or the local diner,
those signs carry a very special message.
They tell you that Manchester isn’t your ordinary Jersey burg, full of ordinary folks leading ordinary lives.
They tell you that their speck on the map is the hometown of somebody extraordinary.
They tell you that Manchester is the proud hometown of Andrew Valmon, two-time Olympic gold medalist.
They’ve been lettered up that way, and bedecked with the Olympic rings, for over 18 years.
Now, though, the town fathers will have to bring in some brush-up artists. Those signs need some quick fixing.
They need to say that Manchester is also the hometown of the next head coach of the USA men’s Olympic track and field team.
Andrew Valmon, the 1983 graduate of Manchester High, the 1987
graduate of Seton Hall, the man who collected Olympic 4×400 relay golds
in 1988 (Seoul) and 1992 (Barcelona), was confirmed as USA men’s head
coach on Thursday.
He’d gained preliminary approval for the appointment last fall. He
got the “thumbs up” from USA Track and Field, the national governing
body for the sport, on Thursday. Now all he needs is the final OK of
the US Olympic Committee, and that is considered a mere formality.
Valmon, who has been head track and field coach at the University of
Maryland since 2003, will gain one more accolade when the USOC says
“yes, of course, he is our man.”
Valmon will then become the first Olympic gold medalist to lead a USA men’s track and field delegation into the Games.
“It’s an incredible honor, but also a very heavy responsibility,” Valmon has been saying all along.
Of course it is.
The buck has always stopped at the head coach’s door. Let a screw-up occur and it’s always his fault – not the actual perpetrators.
But get it right and the Olympic coach is a national hero, a
treasure of a man who got it done while several of his predecessors fell
That’s the huge assignment he is ready and willing to take on.
The many miscues of his USA Olympic coaching predecessors include an
array of transgressions: their team’s failures to get the 4×100 relay
stick around the track; reading the time schedules incorrectly and
seeing would-be American medalists miss their races altogether; putting
the nation’s top guns in training camp situations that brought them into
their Olympic stadia at less than peak fitness.
Oh, and he’s got to be absolutely sure that every athlete in his
care steers absolutely clear of any hint of drug involvement.
Then again, anyone who has ever met Andrew Valmon knows that he’s a man who has never backed away from a challenge.
His celebrated career in the sport has already carried him to
competitions in the far corners of the earth, those two Olympic gold
medals, two Goodwill Games gold medals, a World Championships gold
medal, and two world records.
The best, however, is just ahead. His remarkable track career speaks for itself.
At Manchester High School, he played varsity basketball each winter
but emerged into major stardom once he turned to outdoor track and
field,in the spring. He ran to Ocean County, Shore Conference and New
Jersey state titles in the 400 meters and his 1983 performance of 44.81
for the one-lap distance remains the fastest ever achieved by a Shore Conference athlete. Three other eventual Olympic gold
medalists, Edgewood’s Dennis Mitchell, Elizabeth’s Ron Freeman and
Willingboro’s Lamont Smith, are among the few other New Jersey
scholastic athletes to run have faster for the 400.
Moving on to Seton Hall, his career continued to blossom and he
captured Big East and IC4A Championships while setting SHU records and
powering the Pirates, coached by John Moon, to major team crowns.
Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Valmon was
named to the NCAA All-America team three times and later inducted into
the Seton Hall Hall of Fame.
By Olympic year 1988, he was ready to step up to the world of
international, professional track and field. He placed sixth in the
Olympic Trials at Indianapolis, running 44.79, and this was his ticket
to the Seoul Olympic Games.
At Seoul, he ran the semifinal round of the 4×400 relay and when the
American team won the final in the world record-equaling time of
2:56.16, Valmon earned his first Olympic gold medal.
For the next six years, Valmon played a major role on the world
track and field scene, and gained a reputation as one of the finest
4×400 leadoff-leg runners in his sport’s history.
Among the many highlights: running on the American 4×400 squads that
set world records at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games (teaming with
Quincy Watts, Michael Johnson and Steve Lewis to run 2:55.74) and the
1993 World Championships in Stuttgart (running with Watts, Butch
Reynolds and Johnson to run 2:54.29.)
He invariably got his American teams off to winning starts: his
Barcelona leadoff leg was 44.40, his Stuttgart clocking 44.43.
His Goodwill Games 4×400 gold medal performances took place in 1990 (Seattle) and 1994 (St. Petersburg, Russia.)
The 1993 USA performance of 2:54.29 is still listed as the world record by the IAAF, with the 1992 clocking of
2:55.74 still fourth fastest-ever.
Valmon’s career-best individual performance for the 400 is the 44.28
he ran at the 1993 USA Nationals in Eugene, Oregon; it remains the 25th
fastest in track history.
He earned plaudits for his performance as USA men’s head coach at the
IAAF World Indoor Championships in March 2010 in Doha, Qatar. American
athletes, male and female, led the global tables with 17 total medals.
Andrew and Meredith Rainey Valmon – she is a two-time Olympic
800-meter runner and former NCAA champion for Harvard – are parents of
three and reside in Rockville, Maryland.
Andrew Valmon was born on January 1st, 1965, in Brooklyn. That meant
that New Year’s day 2011 was his 46th birthday and he thus shares this
natal date with every thoroughbred four-legged racer in the world.
Team USA in 2012 will certainly send its own stable of two-legged thoroughbred speedsters to London.
Count on Andrew Valmon, the pride and joy of Manchester Township,
N.J., to lead them across the pond in all the right directions. The
home folks on all sides of Route 70 know that Uncle Sam’s team is in
Elliot Denman is a frequent contributor to American Track & Field magazine and we are happy to have him writing for runblogrun.com.