Alabama Athletics

Former Alabama swimming great Jonty Skinner honored as top coach

Alabama’s Hall of Fame swimmer Jonty Skinner now a Hall of Fame coach

Jonny Skinner came to Alabama in the mid-1970s to swim for Hall of Fame Crimson Tide Coach Don Gambril and became a world record-holder and one of the greatest freestyle sprinters in history. Following his competitive career, he became a swim coach and has been just as accomplished. He will now join his former coach as a member of the American Swimming Coaches Association Coaches Hall of Fame.
Selected for induction by the ASCA board of directors, he will be inducted into the hall on August 31, 2017 as part of organization’s annual awards banquet, held in conjunction with its World Clinic.
“Jonty is one of the most accomplished and respected coaches in our sport,” Alabama Coach Dennis Pursley said. “Our professional relationship goes back more than 20 years and our friendship well beyond that. Jonty is not only an exceptional coach but also a great friend and person of the highest integrity.”
Skinner came from his native South Africa to Tuscaloosa as a teenager, putting together a collegiate career that included Alabama’s first individual NCAA title, winning the 100 freestyle in 1975, and its highest team finish to date, second place in 1977. His 1975 100 freestyle title also set an NCAA record for the event. In between those two feats, he broke the world record in the 100-meter freestyle in the summer of 1976, and held that record longer than any man in history.
A Hall of Fame swimming career led to coaching, and his rise in that field was just as impressive.
Currently in his third stint coaching as a member of the Alabama staff, Skinner serves as associate head coach.  Under his tutelage, the Tide’s sprint corps has roared to the forefront of college swimming, led by Kristian Gkolomeev who won three individual NCAA titles – including the 50 and 100 freestyles. Gkolomeev was also part of the Tide’s NCAA champion 200 medley relay, closing the relay with an 18.00, the second-fastest relay split in the history of swimming.
Skinner started his coaching career under the legendary Don Gambril as an Alabama assistant, after graduating from UA with 19 All-America honors. From there he went on to a highly successful stint as head coach of the San Jose Aquatics Club, where his teams won a USA Senior National team championship and five USA Junior National team titles.
After returning to Tuscaloosa in the late 1980s as associate head coach, Skinner took over the head coaching reins in 1990 when Gambril retired. Skinner capped his four-year tenure as the Tide’s head coach by leading both the men and women to top-10 national finishes in 1994, the same year he was named the SEC Women’s Coach of the Year.
In the summer of 1994, Pursley, then the director of the USA National Team, chose Skinner as the inaugural coach of United States Swimming’s Resident National Team at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. From there Skinner went on to coach some of the world’s top swimmers at the elite national and international level.
Skinner-coached swimmers have won 18 national titles and 20 Olympic medals - including 17 gold. He has also produced two Kipputh Award winners. Alabama standout Jon Olsen stands tall among Skinner’s former pupils. Following an All-America career at The Capstone, Olsen won five Olympic medals - including four that were gold - under Skinner’s tutelage.
After six years as the head coach of the USA Resident National Team, Skinner spent the next eight years as USA Swimming’s Director of Performance Science and Technology, coordinating all of the testing, tracking and assessment of U.S. National Team members. From 2009-12, he worked in a similar capacity with British Swimming.
In addition to his work with the USA and British national teams, Skinner founded Athletic Intelligence Consulting to further his work and research in neuroscience and how it relates to elite level training and competition.
“Jonty is a proven leader in cutting-edge science and technology as it applies to competitive swimming,” Pursley said. “His experience in working with many of the world’s top swimmers and coaches provides a wealth of knowledge to our program. He is a great educator and proven winner who is passionately committed to helping his swimmers become the best that they can be."

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