By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 18, 2011; 12:19 AM
Maryland track and field Coach Andrew Valmon received arguably the biggest honor of his coaching career Thursday when he was named the head coach for the U.S. men's track and field team that will compete at the 2012 Summer Games in London.
One thing is for certain: He got handed one big job.
Valmon, a two-time Olympic medalist in the 4x400 relay, will take over the program as the United States tries to rebound from a debacle at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Despite winning 23 medals there, the U.S. track and field team underperformed in almost every imaginable way while Jamaican Usain Bolt and his green-and-yellow clad teammates dominated the competition.
"It's a great honor to have the opportunity to represent the U.S. in any capacity," Valmon, 46, said. "But it's also a challenge. That's what we do this job for, the challenges."
Valmon has plenty.
A few months after the Beijing Games, a USA Track and Field-appointed committee chaired by Carl Lewis lambasted the Olympic program in a scathing report. It decried the lack of professionalism among the athletes, the chaotic relay program and a "culture of mistrust" among coaches and athletes.
"People have been taking the right steps, dealing with the issue head on," said Valmon, who claimed gold medals at the 1988 and '92 Games. "That's how we can surpass some of the woes of the past, by not turning a deaf ear to the problems."
Valmon said he would continue to fulfill his full-time responsibilities at Maryland, even while gradually preparing himself for next summer's post. He will be joined in London by University of Miami Coach Amy Deem, who was appointed Thursday to lead the U.S. women.
In 2009, Valmon served as an assistant coach for the U.S. team that competed at the world championships in Berlin. Last year, he was head coach of the team that represented the United States at the world indoor championships in Doha, Qatar.
Valmon, who resides in Rockville, began his career as a volunteer assistant at Georgetown in 1995, working his way up to head coach before moving over to Maryland to undertake a rebuilding of a once-venerable program. Progress has been made, he said. He began his career with the Terrapins with just three scholarships and now he has seven.
He said he believes the skills he has acquired dealing with student-athletes will help him next summer.
"One word that comes to mind is to be able to facilitate," Valmon said. "Make sure at the time of competition, these athletes are ready. Being a college coach has helped me have those skills on a day-to-day basis."
Valmon is married to two-time Olympian Meredith Rainey Valmon, and the couple have three children.
Valmon said he will attend this year's U.S. outdoor championships in Eugene, Ore., in June - with his Maryland athletes - and will travel to Daegu, South Korea, for the August world championships. There, he said, he will try to get to develop relationships with the athletes that he will be leading next summer.
"If you have a clear, defined policy, and you're up front with the athletes, you can't fail," Valmon said. "They might not be happy with you, but you can't fail."