Nov. 30, 2011
The first Wyoming swimmer to compete in the Olympic Games, Scott Usher is a name that is synonymous with Cowboy swimming and diving. He reached the highest of levels as an athlete and now has turned his attention to coaching. Usher was inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame this fall and found time to sit down with WyomingAthletics.com for a "Where Are They Now."
A five-time All-American, Usher swam to multiple records in the breaststroke for Corbett Pool, Wyoming and the Mountain West. He won 35 of 36 dual meet breaststroke events en route to winning six conference titles and finishing as high as second at the NCAA meet. Usher went on to place seventh in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and forever etched his name in the minds of Cowboy fans.
What are you doing now since leaving the University of Wyoming?
Scott: In 2006 I decided I needed to change things up a bit, so I decided to train at Purdue University. I needed to switch my mentality and try something new, so I changed up my training. They had some very good breast stokers there that were trying to make the 115 for the 2008 Olympics, so I found some good training partners for three years. I had some pretty good success while I was there. I was able to make the world championship teams all the way up to 2008. At the Olympic trials, I placed third and you have to be top two so I missed making the U.S. team by twelve hundredths of a second. Since then I have been coaching. I stayed for a year there in West Lafayette, and then I moved down to St. Louis for a year and coached down there. Currently I am the assistant men's coach at Miami University of Ohio which is just 45 minutes north of Cincinnati. I'm also going to grad school getting my masters in sports behavior and performance, which I'll be done with this summer.
Do you have any further coaching plans since you are at a Division 1 school now?
Scott: Its nice being at a Division 1 school. It was a great opportunity for me to be a full-time Division 1 coach and also go get my master's at the same time. You don't usually see that too often. In the future, I'm looking more at getting into sports administration. My ultimate goal is to work at the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) and kind of go that rout for a while. I have a lot of pride with the Olympic movement. Everything there is a lot of fun for me so I'm really excited to go there. I was there this summer working as an intern and getting experience. I have some things lined up with them and that's probably going to be my next step.
Scott: The Olympics were amazing. I was born and raised in Nebraska and attended college in Wyoming, both states that have small populations, and then all of a sudden I'm flying to Athens, Greece, on a private jet and being escorted by police in a bus. It was eye-opening for a cowboy from Wyoming. It was a complete change and it was so much fun. One of the coolest things was all the different countries were staying around the Olympic village. We all had pins that we would usually trade and we had gold USA pins. I ran into two Iraq and two Iran guys and with the wars at that time, it was kind of a big deal. I decided to go up and say hi to them and trade pins. I was holding it out and I didn't know what kind of reaction I'd get, but instantly I had about five guys arms around me giving me hugs and had about 20 other pins. It was cool how fast they embraced me and didn't care about the politics and stuff. I was just another guy saying hi, so that was really cool to see.
The events themselves I get goose bumps just thinking about. The swimming competition and also going to watch other competitions. At the track and field events, I saw the U.S. team win a gold medal. When they were making a victory lap, they slowed down by us while we were standing and chanting. I still get goose bumps today thinking about that kind of stuff. It was very cool to meet the other famous athletes. I met Yao Ming and Allen Iverson. I never thought a swimmer would ever get a chance to do that, so it was quite the experience.
Talk about the opening ceremonies? Did you walk?
Scott: Actually, I did not walk during the opening ceremonies. There was one swimmer that walked. Swimming is the very first event and you stand for nine hours during the opening ceremonies, so I skipped it knowing I would be competing the next day. I did walk the closing ceremonies which was really cool because of the transition from Athens giving the torch to China. I was actually partnered up with Rulon Gardner a lot while I was in there. With me being from Nebraska and going to Wyoming, and him being from Wyoming and going to Nebraska, we kind of matched up quickly. At the closing ceremonies, I remember all the fireworks and the huge crowd making all this noise. You couldn't stop looking around. Experiencing that with all those athletes was very unique. I haven't run into a celebration quite like that again.
It was fun there with Rulon. We actually chased down Yao Ming to get a picture with him but he wouldn't stop so we literally ran after him. Rulon was trying to stand by him and I was trying to run in front of him while taking a picture. We really wanted a picture because Yao is like eight-feet tall. It was funny because Rulon to me was this elite athlete and he was acting like a little kid trying to get a picture with Yao Ming. The closing ceremonies were pretty awesome. Kind of cool walking out there with your flag, knowing you are on TV and people are really proud of you.
What does it mean to you being inducted into the Hall of Fame so early after leaving the University of Wyoming?
Scott: That's something I have been thinking about. I almost feel like I don't deserve it. One thing I'm excited about is seeing the Cowboy basketball team from 1986-87. I'm really excited to see what the traditions were back then. I want to talk to them and see what being a Cowboy meant to them and the pride that involved, because I know that's one tradition that has carried through. I feel very fortunate and lucky that I'm being inducted so early and so young. I'm really looking forward to hearing some of these guys talk that have been waiting for much longer than me. I feel they are going to have a greater sense of appreciation, so I'm really looking forward to hearing what they have to say. It's great to be back here. Wyoming was so good to me and they are still honoring me. I feel like I should be giving them things. It's a pretty humbling experience.
What made you come to the University of Wyoming?
Scott: I did go on a few recruiting trips before this and Wyoming was actually a week before the signing date. Head coach Tom (TJ) Johnson didn't try to recruit me. He said he didn't think he would be able to get me, so I actually called him up and asked to come out for a visit. I came out here and just clicked right away with TJ. I loved his energy and passion. I could tell he was all about swimming, and he was also a breast stoker so that helped a lot. The campus was great, I love the outdoors and the people were very gracious, so that brought me in really quick. Everything when I came on my trip felt right and that's what led me this way.
What is your best memory of TJ?
Scott: It's funny because I'm starting to have a better appreciation for what he did for me. I definitely did not return enough back to him I guess you could say. Being a coach now, I know how much of his life he devoted to me and the team. We both had the same goal. He wanted to make the Olympics and I wanted to make the Olympics. I feel like I sacrificed a lot, but I know he sacrificed even more. I know there were times that he missed important family events because we were out training.
There are so many stories when I think of TJ. We built a very strong relationship, because we knew how to pull each other. One of the best stories I like telling is that TJ and I were working out in the Olympic training center by ourselves for like three weeks. Things were getting pretty intense one practice and we just started yelling at each other. We knew what we wanted to do and we knew our relationship was strong enough to handle it. TJ was a great mentor. I definitely wouldn't have been able to achieve what I did without him. From the people he brought in recruiting wise to just his leadership, that's one thing I have noticed coaching now. The fire and passion that I had when I swam partly came from his passion and fire from coaching.
Do you still follow Wyoming swimming and diving? Do you still sport your Wyoming colors?
Scott: Definitely. It is a little harder wearing my Wyoming colors now that I coach at Miami (Ohio), but I still wear it underneath my shirts sometimes. I really follow what the guys do and what TJ does here. He has done a great job of putting his teams together and putting together a great support staff. It's in my blood. I will always be a Cowboy. TJ has represented this university really well.
What does it mean to you to still hold MW and Corbett Pool records?
Scott: It is really cool. It was always exciting to try and set those records and put them up there high enough that they are difficult to break. I honestly hope that TJ gets some kids that can break my records, because that is really where I would like to see UW swimming go. There definitely is a pride still seeing my name up there, knowing that I achieved that and I worked hard to put my name up there.
Where Are They Now Archives
July 12, 2011 - Brian Lee (Football)
July 22, 2011 - Laura Mengelkamp (Women's Golf)
Aug. 5, 2011 - Nichole Rider (Women's Basketball)
Aug. 25, 2011 - Lynn Stetson (Swimming & Diving)
Sept. 14, 2011 - Shauna Smith (Track & Field)
Sept. 29, 2011 - Mike Amundson (Men's Basketball)
Nov. 1, 2011 - Mercy Adetoye (Women's Soccer)