COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic Committee today announced the three Olympic and three Paralympic coaching finalists for the 2017 Team USA Awards presented by Dow, Best of the Year. Beginning in 2017, the USOC added the Olympic and Paralympic Coaches of the Year awards to the Team USA Awards program for Best of the Year and Best of the Games, further highlighting the important role coaches play in athlete performance.
The winners will be determined by a USOC selection panel of coaching, communications, marketing and sport performance professionals, and recognized during the Best of the Year Awards gala, to be held Nov. 29 in Los Angeles. NBC will provide coverage of the awards show from 5-6 p.m. ET on Dec. 23.
Olympic Coach of the Year Finalists
Billy Walsh (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Boxing
Walsh coached USA Boxing to one of its most successful seasons in 2017. After being named Coach of the Year by AIBA in 2016, he has championed Team USA at six international tournaments, winning 28 international medals out of a possible 53. At the 2017 AIBA World Boxing Championships, he guided the U.S. men’s team to three medals – the most since 1999. With only five boxers competing, the U.S. men finished fourth in the team standings behind nations featuring nine or more boxers in the tournament. For his efforts, he was named best coach of the tournament. On the women’s side, he coached Virginia Fuchs to four international gold medals and a perfect 16-0 record in 2017.
Matt Whitcomb (Worthington, Massachusetts), Nordic Skiing
Since assuming his position as head coach in 2012, Whitcomb has led the U.S. Women’s Cross-Country Ski Team to unprecedented success, highlighted by three world championship medals from three different athletes in 2017 and its third straight fourth-place finish in the 4x5-kilometer. Under his direction, five athletes combined for nine world cup podium finishes on the 2016-17 circuit and three athletes advanced to the six-person world championship sprint final in Lahti, Finland. Off the snow, Whitcomb led his team in spearheading an anti-doping petition that was ultimately co-authored by representatives from eight nations and earned more than 100 signatures from cross-country athletes around the world. The petition helped create a platform for athletes to voice their concerns to the International Olympic Committee and International Ski Federation to protect clean athletes in competition.
Bill Zadick (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Wrestling
In his first year as the U.S. national freestyle coach of USA Wrestling, Zadick led the 2017 U.S. Men’s Freestyle World Wrestling Team to its first senior world team title since 1995, marking only the third senior world team crown in program history. The final match of the world championships was dubbed “The Match of the Century” as Team USA’s Kyle Snyder defeated Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia at 97 kg., giving the U.S. a one-point edge for the title. Under Zadick’s leadership, the U.S. won six medals in eight weight classes overall. Additionally, he led the 2017 U.S. junior world team to its first world title since 1984.
Paralympic Coach of the Year Finalists
MJ Rogers (Carlinville, Illinois), Para Archery
Rogers coached the U.S. Para Archery Team to a world team title at the 2017 World Archery Para Championships in Beijing. The team also brought home five individual medals – one gold, two silvers and two bronzes. In addition to guiding athletes in competition, Rogers travels the country working with Team USA athletes in their local communities and teaching adaptive archery seminars for athletes and coaches throughout the Americas. He has also been a critical player in generating resources for para athletes and was instrumental in working with USA Archery to develop the Adaptive Archery Manual, which has gained international recognition as the premiere resource for para archers.
Eileen Carey (Leeds, Maine), Para Nordic Skiing
At the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, Carey coached Oksana Masters to four gold medals and one bronze, and helped Andy Soule capture silver and bronze medals. During the 2016-17 world cup season, she led the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team to 33 world cup medals, a record for the program over the past six seasons. Additionally, Carey helped Team USA to 12 world cup medals in biathlon, marking four times as many as the previous year. Under her mentorship, Masters won the overall cross-country world cup title for the third time and finished third overall in biathlon. Carey also guided Dan Cnossen in winning six medals in just eight starts in his return to the world cup circuit.
Adam Bleakney (Champaign, Illinois), Para Track and Field
For more than a decade, Bleakney has leveraged his experience as a U.S. Paralympic silver medalist to help produce some of the most dominant athletes in wheelchair racing at the University of Illinois. With 12 athletes on the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field National Team, his athletes have had a major impact for Team USA in international competition, combining for 15 medals – including five golds – at the 2017 World Para Athletics Championships. Five of the athletes won multiple medals in London, highlighted by a Team USA sweep in the women’s T54 200 meters and Tatyana McFadden’s four golds that tied for the most successful performance of the event.