Anthony Nesty: Surinam’s Olympic Hero and First Black Coach Of Team USA Men At The 2024 Swimming Olympics

Anthony Conrad Nesty, instantly accorded national hero status, etched his name in history when he triumphed over American Matt Biondi by just one hundredth of a second in the 100m butterfly final at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, becoming Surinam’s first and only Olympic champion. Nesty was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, but his family relocated to Paramaribo in Surinam when he was less than a year old, setting the stage for his remarkable journey in swimming.

Despite the limited swimming facilities in Surinam, with just one 50m pool for a population of 350,000, Nesty’s passion for swimming ignited at the tender age of five. Specializing in the butterfly stroke, he joined the Paramaribo Dolphins club and quickly made waves in the local swimming scene. His talent blossomed, and at 16, he qualified for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, a pivotal moment that fueled his determination to excel further. Recognizing the need to elevate his training, Nesty made the bold decision to relocate to the USA, enrolling at the renowned Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, known for its exceptional sports program. Under the guidance of esteemed coach Greg Troy, Nesty embarked on an intensive training regime that propelled him to success.

The pinnacle of Nesty’s career came at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where he faced off against the formidable Matt Biondi. Despite trailing behind for most of the race, Nesty displayed unwavering determination, mounting a spectacular comeback in the final moments to clinch victory by the slimmest of margins, securing Surinam’s place on the Olympic podium. Following his Olympic triumph, Nesty continued to shine on the international stage. Securing a scholarship at the University of Florida, he joined the Florida Gators club and dominated the NCAA Championships. His prowess in the 100m butterfly remained unmatched, as he embarked on a three-year unbeaten streak, claiming titles at prestigious events such as the Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships and the World Championships.

Nesty’s impact transcended the pool, garnering adoration and accolades in his homeland. His return to Surinam after the Seoul Olympics was met with jubilation, with streets lined in celebration and commemorative stamps and coins bearing his image. Surinam Airways even honored him by renaming one of their planes “Nesty” in recognition of his monumental achievement. In the years that followed, Nesty continued to break barriers and pave the way for future generations. His historic appointment as the first Black swimming head coach for Team USA at the 2024 Olympics underscores his enduring legacy and commitment to the sport.