Honor Synchronized Swimming Coach
THE RECORD: 1988, 1992, 1996
OLYMPIC GAMES: Head Coach; 1982,
1986, 1991, 1994 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Coach; 1983 - Present FINA WORLD CUP:
Team Coach; 1979 to Present NATIONAL TEAM: Coach; Coach of OLYMPIC
SWIMMERS winning 11 gold and 3 silver medals, WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SWIMMERS
winning 14 gold and 9 silver, FINA WORLD CUP SWIMMERS winning 24 gold and 5
silver medals, GOODWILL GAMES SWIMMERS winning 3 gold medals; Coach of 56 U.S.
National Team Championships, 11 Junior National Team Championships; Coach of 150
swimmers to National Titles.
since the days of Hall of Fame Honoree and San Francisco Merionettes coach Marion Kane,
has a coach dominated the world of synchronized swimming.
Her entry into the sport more than 38 years ago marked the beginning of a
competitive and coaching legacy that has made Gail Emery synonymous with
achievement and success. And she
did it all with a competitive but compassionate heart that brought out the best
in her athletes. Of all
synchronized swimming coaches, she is the coach who perhaps had the greatest
impact in this sport as it was developing on the Olympic scene.
started at age eight when in 1959, Gail’s mom Sue Alf, long time coach and
national judge, introduced Gail to synchronized swimming.
She swam first with the Solfettes of Walnut Creek, California, then the
Howell Swim Club of Danville and finished her competitive career with the Santa
Clara Aquamaids under Hall of Fame coach Kay Vilen.
It was here she became a national team champion in 1972 and was part of a
demonstration team that performed at the Munich Olympics. Twelve years later, in
1984, synchronized swimming became an Olympic event and Gail was on the Olympic
In the fall of 1972, Gail began coaching the Walnut Creek Aquanuts, a team her mother had founded. Eight years later in 1980, her team finally defeated the long-reigning Aquamaids of Santa Clara beginning a streak of 10 consecutive national championships, never before achieved.
she began developing future world and Olympic champions, Gail was selected as
the National Team coach in 1979, a position she held for 5 Olympic quadrennials.
She served as Olympic head coach for three Games (1988, 1992, 1996) and
coach/manager for one (1984). Her
personal swimmers - duet pair Karen and Sarah Josephson won Olympic silver in
1988 and gold in 1992. Kristen
Babb-Sprague won the solo gold in 1992. In
1996, five of Emery’s life-long athletes made up the eight girls who won the
team gold medal in the first-ever perfect-routine score in Olympic history.
With head coach Charlotte Davis in 1984, Gail helped coach Tracie Ruiz to
the gold medal in the solo event and to another gold medal in the duet with
Candy Costie. Tracie won the silver
in 1988. That’s a total of 10
Olympians - eight of which originated from Emery’s club.
served as coach of every World Championship team from 1982 to 1998 with her U.S.
teams winning seven of the 18 gold medals.
In FINA World Cup competition, Emery-coached teams have won 25 gold
medals and four silver medals, with a 1993 and 1995 sweep of the gold medals -
solo, duet and team. Her
prodigy’s have earned Pan American Games gold in duet (1987, 1991) and in team
entries in 1983, 1987, 1991 and 1995.
athletes introduced a technical expertise to the sport that shed the old-school
description of synchronized swimming as “water ballet” and led to the
acceptance of the sport as a physically demanding yet artistically expressive
athletic event. She implemented
scientifically designed training methods and diverse, cross-training regimens to
take her teams to a level only pursued by others.
Her Olympic and international champions are testimony to this: Karen and
Sarah Josephson, Kristen Babb-Sprague, Mary Visniski, Tracy Long, Michelle
Svitenko Africano, Tammy Cleland, Heather Pease, Jill Savery, Nathalie Schneyder
and Margot Thien. As the assistant
head coach of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team, four of Emery’s prodigies are among
the team’s athletes.
1998, Gail took over the reigns of Stanford University’s synchronized swimming
program and quickly won the NCAA National Championship, only the second time in
22 years for the school. Whether it
is at the collegiate, national, World Championship or Olympic levels or at the
Rome Open, American Cup, Pan Pacific Championships, Japan Cup, Moscow
Invitational or Swiss Open, the legacy left by Gail Emery and the athletes that
she coached will be long remembered and respected.
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