The Greatest Female Coaches in Olympic History (Part 1)

Pat Summitt – Head Coach of the USA Women’s Basketball Team winning Gold at the 1984 LA Olympic Games

Whilst the dearth of female coaches throughout performance sport is well documented, and the percentage of female coaches at the Olympic Games is below 11% Games after Games – those female coaches who have made it to Olympic level have created some of the most incredible Olympic Moments in History.

In part 1 of our article, we showcase South African Sprints Coach Ans Botha, US Basketball Coach Pat Summitt, Chinese Volleyball Coach Lang Ping, US Middle Distance Coach Margo Jennings and British Swimming Coach Mel Marshall.

Ans Botha and her World Record Breaking Athlete (Rio 2016)

Who can forget the incredible moment South African Sprinter Wayde Van Neikirk won his Country’s first ever Gold medal in Track & Field. Stuck out in lane 8, Wade blasted out of the blocks in the 400m final and crossed the line in a World Record time of 43.03.

Seconds later as the World rubbed their eyes at his incredible feat, camera’s honed in on his coach who was sat in the stands watching the athlete she had coached since he was a young boy. 74 year old Ans Botha brought tears to the eyes of those that watched her and those around her cheering with elatino of what they had just witnessed.

As she attempted to get through the crowds to congratulate him, Botha ran into officials who did not believe the lady with the white hair was coach to an athlete whose achievement had overshadowed even Usain Bolt’s third successive 100m Olympic title.Rio Olympics 2016: Brazil knock USA out of women’s beach volleyball – as it happenedRead more

“At every entrance there was security and they just wouldn’t let me go through,” she told the New York Times.

It was only when South African team officials intervened that the pair were able to enjoy a hug. “It wasn’t necessary to say anything,” she said. “We knew in our hearts and in our minds what we thought and what we had achieved.”

Pat Summitt Coaching USA Women To Gold (LA.1984)

Pat Summit is one of the most legendary coaches of all time. She is best known for her incredible coaching career as Head Coach at Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team from 1974 to 2012. With 1,098 wins to her name, her career came to an early end due to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and sadly passed away aged 64 in 2016.

Pat played basketball for Tennessee from 1970 – 1974 and was part of the first USA women’s Olympic team, alongside other basketball legends such as Nancy Lieberman, Cindy Brogdon and Patricia Roberts. At the Montreal Games, and the first appearance of women’s basketball in the Olympics, the USA Team were beaten by the Soviet Union and took home the Silver Medal.

Following the USA boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, the USA teams next appearance was at the 1984 Olympic Games in LA – this time, with Pat Summitt as Head Coach!

By the time the 1984 competition ended, the U.S. women had plenty to celebrate as the Americans cruised to their first Olympic gold medal with a perfect 6-0 slate, and in the process had outscored their opponents by an average of 32.7 points per game. No opponent managed to score more than 61 points, and the USA’s lowest point total of any game was 81. 

Summitt cemented her legacy in 1984 on the international stage and continued to excel on home soil.

Since that formidable win, USA Women haven’t lost their Olympic title since.

Lang Ping Wins Gold as Athlete and Coach (Rio 2016)

Lang Ping is a true legend in Chine Sport and the World of volleyball. She is the only person ever to have won Olympic Gold as both player and coach.

At the 1984 LA Games, Lang was part of the Chinese women’s volleyball team who beat the USA to take home the Gold medal. Lang was also named MVP of the game.

In 1987, Lang moved to Los Angeles with her former husband Bai Fan (Frank) to study and served as an assistant volleyball coach at the University of New Mexico.

In 1995, Lang became the head coach of the Chinese national team and eventually guided the squad to the silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia and second place at the 1998 World Championships in Japan.  Lang Ping resigned from the Chinese national team in 1998 due to health reasons.

She became the coach of the US National Team in 2005. Lang guided the team to the 2008 Olympics, where the US team faced off with China in her home country. The US team defeated China 3–2. Then Chinese and US presidents, Hu Jintao and George W. Bush, attended the match. The match drew 250 million television viewers in China alone.

The team went on to win the silver medal, losing to Brazil in the finals 3–1. Lang allowed her contract to run out later that year, citing that she wanted to coach a club so as to spend more time with her family. She became the head coach of the China women’s national volleyball team for the second time in 2013 and won the World Cup in Japan in 2015. In 2014, she was the only female head coach among the 24 teams in the FIVB World Championship.

On August 21, 2016, Lang Ping guided the Chinese national team to the gold medal at 2016 Rio Olympics. With this victory, Lang Ping became the first person in volleyball history, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games as a player with the Chinese national team in Los Angeles 1984 and as the Chinese national team head coach in Rio 2016.

Margo Jennings Win’s Double Gold (Athens 2004)

Margo Jennings is a middle distance coach based in the US and is most notable for coaching Maria Mutola and Kelly Holmes. She is regarded as one of the greatest middle distance coaches in the World.

At the 2004 Games in Athens, Margo had two athletes in the form of their life, both with goals of creating Olympic history. Maria Mutola was aiming to defend her 800m title she won at the Sydney 2000 Games, and Kelly Holmes was attempting the 800m / 1500m double – a feat no female athlete had achieved and no British athlete male or female.

With both Maria and Kelly reaching the 800m final…Margo stood back from her coaching duties and allowed both her athletes to do what they do best.

In the 800m final, the first lap was lead by American Jearl Miles Clark, with both Kelly and Maria last in the pack. As the race ramped up and with only 100m to go down the finishing straight, Maria was in the lead until Kelly Holmes chipped away meter by meter, crossing the line in first, taking the Gold medal, with a tired and shocked Maria finishing back in fourth position.

Kelly had only decided to enter the 800 metres at the last moment, and went on to also win gold in her preferred event, the 1500 m. This feat made her one of the UK’s most successful ever athletes ; the Olympic 800–1500 metres double was never accomplished by any of their great 1980s middle distance trio, Sebastian CoeSteve Ovett or Steve Cram.

Mel Marshal and her Record Breaking Swimmer (Rio 2016)

Mel Marshall is the Coach behind one of the World’s Greatest ever Swimmers – Adam Peaty.

Adam is the 2016 Olympic Champion, an eight-time World Champion, a sixteen-time European Champion and a three-time Commonwealth Champion. He has broken world records 13 times and currently holds three world records in the 100 metre breaststroke (long course and short course) and the 50 metre breaststroke, becoming the first man to swim under 26 seconds for the 50 metre breaststroke and the first to swim the 100 metre breaststroke under both 58 and 57 seconds.

Peaty only competed in the 100 metre breaststroke in the individual events as 50 metre breaststroke was not an Olympic swimming event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In the heats, Peaty broke his own world record with a time of 57.55 seconds. He then won his semi-final and went on to win the final, breaking his own world record that he had set in the heats and winning Team GB‘s first gold medal of the 2016 Olympics on 7 August 2016, winning with a time of 57.13 seconds. He won a further silver medal in the 4 × 100 metre medley relay with Walker-Hebborn, Guy and Scott.

Adam has been coached by Marshall since 2009 when he walked through the doors of the City of Derby club and the pair have never looked back.

Mel herself also has impressive athletic credentials; she is England’s most decorated female athlete ever at a Commonwealth Games, winning 6 medals in a single games. Mel is also a double Olympian and 5 time Olympic finalist, and has over 20 international medals to her name including World, European and Commonwealth.

Her first international appearance was at just 13 years of age in the European Youth Olympic festival where she won 4 gold medals. She continued as an international for a further 15 years retiring at the age of 26. 

Since retiring from swimming Mel has put her efforts into charity work, motivational functions and coaching, and her ethos is to empower others and educate them on how to adopt the character traits necessary for success.

If you know of any other women who have achieved extraordinary things at the Olympic Games, let us know in the comments below!