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Olympics

Phoenix legend winds up British swim assignment

LONDON – Adapting to foreign cultures isn’t a new concept for the head coach of Britain’s swim team. Dennis Pursley has tested his threshold traveling the world in a swimming pool, but the United Kingdom has been a home away from home the last four years.

“I’ve traveled around the world and people here have a great sense of humor. You know there’s a lot of fun things about the Brits,” Pursley said.

A resident of Phoenix and former coach at Brophy College Preparatory, Pursley was inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame in 2006. He has coached Olympic teams for the U.S. and Australia, but the British swimming experience has been just as memorable even though the Brits managed only one silver and two bronze medals in these games.

“It’s been a great experience. I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I enjoy the culture. People are great and the athletes I’ve worked with couldn’t be more professional. They respect authority and focus on being the best they can be.”

A father of five, Pursley is excited to get home to see his family and return to his everyday American lifestyle.

“There’s little things you miss, too,” Pursley said. “Just to be able to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and go to a Starbucks for a cup of coffee, you know they don’t open around here usually until 9 or 10 a.m.”

His son, Steven, is proud of his father coaching at the Olympic level.

“On one hand, it’s tough having my dad live in London for the past four years, but on the other hand I know he is fulfilling his dreams and that makes me truly happy,” Steven said by phone from Phoenix.

Steven swam for his father one year at Brophy. That time together he treasures. But he misses his father.

“Looking back I’m just thankful that my dad was able to coach at my high school during my time at Brophy, even though he was in the middle of a hall of fame career,” Steven said.

After the Olympic games, Purlsey will head back to where his career started: his alma mater, the University of Alabama, where he will head the swimming and diving program.

“It would be nice to get a two-week breather before returning to coaching,” Purlsey said. “But I couldn’t be more excited to get things started at my alma mater.”

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Pete Wilson/Cronkite News Service

Hall of fame swim coach Dennis Pursley is wrapping up a multi-year commitment as coach of the British Olympic swim team.