A shadow hangs over the U.S. swim nationals

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Two months ago, Olympian Ariana Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming, former Seattle-area coach Sean Hutchinson and others in Orange County Superior Court. Smith, who swam at the London Olympics in 2012, alleged Hutchinson groomed and molested her when she was a minor while the sport’s domestic governing body looked the other way. The coach denied the charges.

“I never thought I would share my story, because in so many ways, just surviving was enough,” Smith wrote on her blog earlier this year.

Two days after the lawsuit, Tim Hinchey, the president and CEO of USA Swimming, testified in front of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. He noted the organization directed 75 complaints about inappropriate coach behavior to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a nonprofit focused on preventing abuse in sports, since July 2017. USA Swimming has added 12 coaches to its banned list just this year.

“However, I regret we continue to receive reports of child sexual abuse in swimming,” Hinchey testified. “The organization can, should and will do more and I will lead the effort.”

The problem continues to frustrate some of the sport’s highest-profile leaders.

“In a raw sense, I get really mad. I get really angry,” said David Marsh, who oversees the UC San Diego swim team and served as head coach of the U.S. women’s team that won 16 medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016.

Marsh recalled addressing fellow coaches during an American Swim Coaches Assn. conference a few years ago.

“I said, ‘Guys, if you have issues, get the hell out of our sport. Please don’t work with children. Go sell vacuum cleaners,’” Marsh said.

“If I’d had situations like this come up in the old way, we jacked them up against the wall and said, ‘Are you out of your … mind? … If you’re going to be a coach, you’re here to coach. You’re not here to be their best friend or their companion or their shoulder to cry on.”

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Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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