Aug. 14, 2012
University of Michigan women's cross country head coach Mike McGuire was given the opportunity of a lifetime this summer as he made his first trip to the Olympic Games in London. McGuire, who also serves as associated head coach for the U-M women's track and field program, has been coaching former U-M standout Nicole (Edwards) Sifuentes since she graduated in 2008 and was invited to accompany her to London after she qualified for the 1,500-meter run at the Canadian Olympic Trials. Prior to traveling to London, he met up with Nicole in Germany at Team Canada's Training Camp. While in London he had the opportunity to coach Nicole in front of a crowd of 80,000 fans and see many of the historic sites the city has to offer.
MGoBlue.com caught up with McGuire upon his return to Ann Arbor to talk about his two-week experience in Europe and what it meant to him.
On his experience at the Canadian training camp in Germany prior to the Olympics ... "The Canadian staff was kind enough to let me be involved on Nicole's workout days. I actually stayed about eight to 10 miles from where their training center was. They had a great set up in a little town called Kamen, Germany. I was with her for two workouts and on her non-workout days she was running on her own. That part of it was good. We changed some travel plans so she had to do her last workout at the Olympic site, but I was not permitted to the practice track. So then I changed my plans a little bit and ended up spending three days in Cologne, Germany. I had a great time. I'm an avid walker so I was out on two or three hour walks every day just checking things out. Cologne is right on the Rhine River so it was a very different exposure to that part of Europe that I'd never had."
On his experience in London ... "I stayed with a host family and it was a great setup. I was a 22-minute walk from Olympic Stadium right in East London. They were very gracious hosts. I had a room there and Nicole's husband stayed there too. Obviously, Nicole was in the Olympic Village the entire time. I was permitted tickets to the days that Nicole competed, which was two days of competition. And then by happenstance a friend of mine gave me a ticket so I'd have a chance to watch Nick Willis run in the 1,500-meter final. The tickets were pretty pricey. They charged per session and I didn't see a ticket less than 85 pounds, which is over 100 dollars. The seat I sat in for Nick's final was a 450-dollar seat."
On watching other Michigan alums compete ... "I got to see Tiffany (Porter) run because she was the first race on the day that Nicole ran her first round. Tiffany got a tremendous cheer as she was representing the host country of Great Britain. The English crowd was unbelievable. She was very well received and she had a solid first round. I didn't get to see Geena (Gall) run in person because she ran later in the schedule, but I watched both her races on television."
On the pride he had when his former athletes competed in Olympic Stadium ... "Basically it's a culmination of what we knew five or six years ago was possible. I said to Coach (James) Henry near the end of their careers when we had Nicole, Geena, Tiffany and Anna Willard (Pierce) and Katie Erdman and Bettie Wade -- 'We have half a dozen Olympic caliber athletes who still have eligibility remaining.' I have a lot of pride, especially in Nicole's case, working with her and also great pride in what Coach Henry and Coach (Arnett) Chisholm have done with Tiffany to develop her. We feel that we've done it the right way. These kids had a lot of success as collegiate athletes, they had a lot of success contributing to our team success, but there was still gas in the tank for all of them to move on to bigger and better things, which they have. As coaches, you're proud of that part and what you had to do with it."
On the progression his has seen in Nicole Sifunetes as her coach for eight years ... "She's been a very focused athlete from the day she walked in the door in 2004. After eight years of working with her and training, obviously she's gotten a lot faster in the events that she was running in high school, but she's also gotten a lot stronger. I've watched her transform from a freshman who came in a little wide-eyed from 20 hours away in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to someone who spent three-and-a-half weeks in Europe for the Olympics. She was in Italy racing before I met her in Germany for training camp. She is a professional just like any other person who excels in their craft. I like to think I've had a par in it, but she's the type of person who is reaping the benefits of a lot of focus over the last eight years. She got better this year and I think she'll continue to get better."
On Nicole Sifuentes, Geena Gall and Tiffany Porter competing in future Olympics ... "Nicole and I have talked about it and she has two more Olympics in her -- definitely one more at 1,500 and if she chooses to go on in 2020 it would probably be at 5,000 meters at that point in her career. I didn't get a chance to talk to Geena in person, I texted her. Both Geena and Tiffany were nicked up going to into the Olympics. I know Tiffany had a back issue and Geena was coming off a pretty significant calf injury, which caused her to miss a fair amount of time over in Europe when she was supposed to be racing -- and it showed. What she did at the Olympics and the trials were two different things. That type of injury and interruption in her training are tough. But they both have two more Olympics in them. Obviously they have to continue to get better and realize that there is going to be a whole new ground swell of troops four years from now and eight years from now. They all have the opportunity to be on that stage in Rio and even beyond that if they want to."
On the Olympics providing extra motivation for his current athletes ... "The ones that have been here for a while -- Becca Addison and Jill Smith and that group that has been around Nicole a little bit longer have had a chance to see her growth also. What I hope that they get out of it is that Nicole, Geena (Gall) and Tiffany's (Porter) approach to the sport has continued to grow. There was never any wavering to it from the moment they walked in the door. They had Olympic aspirations and a professional attitude in September of their freshman year. You try to hammer it home that they can get the most out of it by having a professional attitude."