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The tiny Chilean star has no plans to immediately move to another coach.
Reigning ITU sprint world champion Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile is leaving her coach since 2009, Darren Smith.
Smith oversaw Riveros’ breakthrough in 2010, when she went from an unknown ITU athlete to one of the stars on the ITU circuit, winning the 2010 Dextro Energy World Championship Series Sydney leg and placing second in Seoul that year.
Riveros, who finished the 2011 season ranked fifth in the ITU’s premier World Championship Series and is a medal favorite for the upcoming London Olympics, said she couldn’t be more thankful for her time with Smith but that the coaching relationship had simply outgrown itself.
“This is a difficult decision for me to make, but I have put a lot of thought into this before I decided to leave Darren and the squad. I think this is the best decision for me now as I prepare with 100 percent focus on London,” Riveros said. “Darren is an excellent coach and he is working with a very talented group of potential medal contenders. I wish him the very best success.”
Smith, who is known for taking athletes with no swim backgrounds and making them capable of swimming in the ITU’s fiercely competitive swim packs, which is what he did with Riveros, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I am really proud of what we achieved together with Barbara. She had a world-class breakthrough in the past few seasons with our squad,” Smith said. “She had many notable highlights, including winning a world championship and a world No. 1 rank on several occasions. We wish her the best of luck as she embarks on the next chapter in her career.”
By leaving Smith, Riveros is also leaving the group of elite ITU athletes she trains with—a group that is colloquially known as the “D-Squad” and includes multiple Olympic medal favorites, with 2010 sprint world champion Lisa Norden of Sweden and 2011 World Championship Series overall bronze medalist Sarah Groff of the U.S. being among them.
“Darren and I had several very successful years together. We accomplished very good results together, and I have Darren and my D-Squad training partners to thank for much of my development,” Riveros said.
While the timing of the decision—only months before the 2012 London Olympics—appeared odd to some observers, it was one that simply couldn’t wait any longer, said Michael O’Neil, Riveros’ manager.
“I think if an athlete starts thinking about their next step beyond their current coaching situation and the upcoming Olympics, that really starts to weigh on the dynamic,” O’Neil said.
Riveros said she has no plans to immediately work with another coach and will train alone in Canberra, Australia, where Smith’s squad is based during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, adding that Smith will continue to influence her career.
“I think Darren’s biggest contribution to my career is that he taught me that to be a consistent athlete, every day is important. He taught me to be proactive and how to look after my body, to get regular treatments from the physio and massage therapist,” Riveros said. “Being professional like this has helped me avoid major injuries and allowed me to race and train at a high level. Daz [Smith’s nickname] showed me the importance of the little details that are often ignored by others and lead to setbacks. Daz has helped me become a more mature athlete. I am so grateful to him for his contribution to my development.”
When the squad moves to Davos, Switzerland, in the spring as they do every year, Riveros will move to a to-be-determined locale in Europe to prepare for the Olympics, O’Neil said.