Local figure skating coach Audrey Weisiger, who this year helped Fairfax's Michael Weiss win his first U.S. title and world championship medal, figures to be a leading candidate to win the U.S. Olympic Committee's fourth annual coach of the year award, which will be announced today.
Weisiger, Weiss's longtime coach from Clifton, will face stiff competition from a handful of prominent candidates from other sports: John W. Smith (track and field), Nick Bollettieri (tennis) and Larry Brown (basketball)--as well as nominees from the 41 other Olympic and Pan American sport national governing bodies.
Weisiger, however, will not have to contend with Tony DiCicco, the coach of the U.S. soccer team that won the 1999 Women's World Cup--and achieved such heights of popularity it appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and People in the same week.
The U.S. Soccer Federation nominated its 1998 coach of the year, Bob Bradley, for this award. USSF spokesman Jim Moorhouse explained that the USSF has not selected its 1999 coach of the year yet. Bradley coached the Chicago Fire to the 1998 Major League Soccer championship. He also is a part-time assistant coach of the men's national team.
Had DiCicco been submitted for this year's USOC award, he would have been the runaway favorite. His absence from the field makes it fairly wide open.
Weisiger coached Weiss to the U.S. title and a bronze medal at the world championships last winter in Helsinki. The pair have worked together at Fairfax Ice Arena since Weiss began skating as a boy.
Smith oversees a handful of star pupils: sprinters Maurice Greene and Inger Miller, as well as hurdler Larry Wade. Greene set a world record in the 100 meters this summer and won three gold medals at the recent world championships in Seville, Spain. Miller won a gold and a silver in Seville.
Brown was a late replacement for Rudy Tomjanovich, who stepped down, but nevertheless coached the U.S. men's basketball team to the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in July. Bollettieri continues to produce star tennis players; he has coached nearly all of the top players in both the men's and women's games.
Ben Smith, coach of the 1998 Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. women's hockey team, was last year's USOC coach of the year. In 1997, the award went to Frank Carroll, coach of 1997 world figure skating champion Michelle Kwan. The inaugural award was presented to Tara VanDerveer, who led the U.S. women's basketball team to an Olympic gold medal in 1996.
Though DiCicco won't be honored this weekend, he will be in attendance at the black-tie gala awards ceremony coordinated by the Baltimore/Washington Regional 2012 Commission. The USOC has decided to honor DiCicco's wife and four sons with a newly created award: the President's Coaching Award.
The award will be given annually to the person or persons who provide the best behind-the-scenes support that allows a coach to achieve major success that year.
DiCicco said his wife, Diane, is excited and his sons--Anthony, 17; Andrew, 14; Alex, 12; and Nicholas, 8--have been outfitted in tuxedos.
"I'm delighted my family has been chosen," DiCicco said. "They have put up with me being away. Those were some very difficult times for them."
Three coaches with local connections are among the 45 nominees for developmental coach of the year, an honor given to a coach who works with athletes at the grass-roots level: Silvan Poberaj, canoe and kayak, Cabin John; James C. Wofford, equestrian, Upperville; Adam Werblow, sailing, St. Mary's City, Md.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), author of the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, will be honored as the USOC honorary coach of the year.