Watching for gold

Becky Campbell • Jan 31, 2014 at 9:33 AM

When East Tennessee State University professor Dr. Brad DeWeese sits down to watch the Winter Olympics on TV next month, he’ll have a little more invested in the games than most of us.

DeWeese, described by some as one of the nation’s premier sports performance coaches and scientists, will be watching for glimpses of nine particular athletes for whom he’s played a significant role in their training for the games, which take place Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.

Before he arrived at ETSU as an assistant professor of exercise and sport science in ETSU’s Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education, DeWeese was head of sports physiology for the United States Olympic Committee’s Winter Division at Lake Placid, overseeing all aspects of the physical preparation and training for nearly two dozen athletes.

“Of those, nine actually made the (USA) team,” DeWeese said Thursday. “I was happy to have one make it,” but having nine — including five-time world champion and gold medalist Steve Holcomb, three-time Olympian Lolo Jones, former Green Bay Packers player Johnny Quinn, Dallas Robinson, Nick Cunningham, Cory Butner and Steve Langton on the bobsled team; Kyle Tress on the skeleton team; and Chris Mazdzer on the luge team — thrilled him, he said.

There are also two alternate athletes selected from those DeWeese trained. They are bobsledders Chris Langston and Katie Eberling.

“In bobsled, luge and skeleton, they each have their sliding coach,” DeWeese said. The sports-specific coach teaches them sliding techniques, where to run their sled and how to maneuver during their run, he said.

“My job is to teach them strength, speed, nutrition and recovery; I prepare the athlete, and their sport coach takes the athlete and turns them into a slider,” he said.

U.S. athletes arrived in Sochi on Thursday, but have been overseas since December to compete in the World Cup games.

There have been terrorist acts in Russia leading up to the games, but that doesn’t worry DeWeese.

“Most (of the athletes) are in the Olympic Village now, so they are safe. … I’m very confident they’re going to be OK,” he said.

DeWeese won’t be traveling to Sochi, but will continue training the Olympians. He’s been using phone, texts, email, Skype and social media to communicate with his athletes about their strength training, nutrition and recovery and will continue that when the Olympics begin.

“My schedule is I’m going to be up really early talking to them if necessary during competition (but) during the evening I’m going to be glued to the TV,” he said.

Having his trainees in the world sporting competition is special, DeWeese said.

“I cant even explain the feeling you get to know you’re helping them compete and win a medal. It’s awe-inspiring. … It means so much,” he said.

Even though they’re only 4 and 2 years old, DeWeese’s two children will also be watching the games because they’ve grown up seeing these athletes at their birthday parties or having dinner with their family.

When his 4-year-old daughter sees the American flag, she says it’s “Daddy’s flag,” DeWeese said.

“She knows it’s a big deal when she sees these athletes on TV. I’m going to be a nervous coach but I’m going to be a proud Dad at the same time,” he said.

To date, DeWeese’s athletes have achieved five world championships, 12 national championships and 90 medals in international track and field, karate, canoe/kayak, luge and freestyle ski competitions.

“I am now into my second complete year of training with Brad and I have seen phenomenal results,” said Quinn, who is competing in the Olympics for the first time.Tress, also a first-time Olympian, said, “Training with Brad over the past four years has been one of the highlights of my athletic career. He changed my entire outlook on training. Prior to working with Brad, I was frustrated with my progress and doubting my future in sport. I lacked intensity and motivation.

“Brad’s knowledge, his scientific approach, and his incredible dedication to his athletes’ success was invigorating. I had concrete goals and expectations, and I started to enjoy training again. The best results of my career followed shortly after.”

DeWeese holds a B.S. degree in sport management and a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from Western Carolina University and an Ed.D. degree in education and leadership with a focus on elite athlete/coach development and program design from North Carolina State University.

He is certified as a USA Track and Field level-two coach in sprints, hurdles and relays and as an instructor; a USA Weightlifting sport-performance coach and club coach; and a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

“I always have a great relationship with my coaches,” Robinson said. “Dr. DeWeese is different than most coaches, though, as he encourages intelligent feedback, questions and discussions. I personally have found that athletes perform best if they know why they are doing something, and Dr. DeWeese definitely takes the approach that an educated athlete is a better athlete. I have learned so much from him and I am also honored to call him a friend.”

Jones said her training with DeWeese “has been interesting because I was so used to doing track-specific workouts and being successful with those that I had to really step out on faith to work with a new coach. Immediately Brad broke me down to basics and began to fix my bad habits that I had formed over the years. He also had to break me down and retrain my mind that I was no longer training to be the best 100-meter sprinter but I was training to be the best 50-meter sprinter.

“He did this over time, and when I complained I wasn’t running enough, he would modify workouts to make me feel like I was running more like a track athlete, but they were still bobsled-specific workouts.”

ETSU has previous Olympic connections. In 2012, the university earned a designation as an official Olympic training site in weightlifting.

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