MILWAUKEE -- They have been with their athletes every step of the way, through bad times and good, through broken skate blades and hearts, through the tedium of training stretched out over months and, in some cases, years.
The payoff was the dream fulfilled. Their long-track speedskaters made the 2010 U.S. Olympic team.
Now, five personal coaches who helped seven athletes get to Vancouver must step aside. They have not been credentialed by U.S. Speedskating, which means they cannot be on the ice for their skaters' races at the Richmond Olympic Oval next month.
"The credentialing at the Games is done entirely by the (United States Olympic Committee)," said Brad Goskowicz, president of U.S. Speedskating. "They control the number of credentials. We tell them how many credentials we need and then there's always a process of negotiation.
"We're very comfortable with the number of credentials we have for the Games."
The field of play credentials, which give the bearer unrestricted access at competition venues, will go to national team coaches Ryan Shimabukuro, Derek Parra and Mike Kooreman, and also will be used by support staff such as the team leader and a sports psychologist.
The personal coaches know it's difficult to obtain additional credentials but claim the organization didn't try very hard on their behalf and didn't prepare for a situation everyone knew was coming.
"With respect to effort, it's easy to say that they tried, right?" said Kip Carpenter, who coaches Olympian Jilleanne Rookard. "Are they doing everything they can do?
"I was never contacted by Brad Goskowicz, (executive director) Bob Crowley or (vice president) Jack Mortell saying, 'Hey, we're making an effort to get you there. What days do you need a credential?'
"Their effort wasn't valiant, in my opinion."
Nancy Swider-Peltz Sr., a four-time Olympic speedskater, is upset about what she says was a "lack of respect" from the organization. She coaches two Olympians -- her daughter, Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr., and Brian Hansen.
"I have two people on this Olympic team," Swider-Peltz Sr. said. "They're going to say I can't even get into the ice rink to coach my skaters when they get there? We are not being dealt with respectfully."
Goskowicz refuted the personal coaches' contention that U.S. Speedskating could have gotten more credentials had the organization tried harder.
"That's false," he said. "There really was no opportunity for that. And there are five coaches who want them. Do you want to choose which one gets a credential?"
The other personal coaches affected are Paul Marchese, who works with Trevor Marsicano and also helps Jonathan Kuck; Mike Witty, who coaches Mitch Whitmore; and Tom Cushman, who coaches Maria Lamb.
All the Olympians who work with personal coaches, except Lamb, train at the Pettit National Ice Center in Wisconsin.
Before and during Olympic races, each skater can have two coaches on the ice. The coaches help their skaters warm up, call out lap times and shout technical advice and words of encouragement.
It's understandable that U.S. Speedskating would want its national coaches on the ice at the Olympics. The personal coaches respect Parra, Shimabukuro and Kooreman, but say their skaters are attuned to their voices and that they know which motivational buttons to push.
"Mitch and I have built a relationship over four years," Witty said. "There are some things I can tell him on the ice that one of the other coaches that's there just for that event might not know, might not see, might not understand."
Witty and Swider-Peltz said U.S. Speedskating officials questioned their reasons for wanting to be on the ice, telling them it was an "ego thing."
"I guess the return question is why do their coaches need to be on the ice?" Witty said. "If it's an ego thing, does it go both ways? Is it an ego thing for me to say, 'It's my skater. I coached him. I want to be there.'?"
Witty, who is unemployed, said he would like to be in Vancouver but probably would just stay home. Swider-Peltz is considering sitting in the stands and yelling instructions to her skaters through a bullhorn.
Marchese, one of America's foremost skate technicians, said he offered his services to U.S. Speedskating but was rebuffed. He has taken a job as an assistant coach with China's short-track Olympic team and is going through the Chinese to try to secure a credential for Marsicano's races.
"It's unfortunate to have to work for another country so that I can continue to work with my skater," Marchese said. "China has been very good about helping me to get access."
And if China doesn't come through with a long-track credential?
"Then it gets really, really difficult," he said. "I may not even be able to get in the building."
Carpenter, a bronze medal-winner at the 2002 Olympics, said he would be in Vancouver but was not sure he'd be at the rink when Rookard raced.
"I don't even have tickets for the stands," he said. "We'll see what happens. As of now, I'll be sitting in a hotel room. I'm hoping to get some sort of day pass so I can get into practice. With respect to races, that's out of the question."
The bottom line is whether a skater's performance could be negatively impacted by not having his or her coach on the ice. All the personal coaches said that was a possibility.
"If Mitch wasn't feeling good that day, just by knowing him there would be some things I would say that would get him a little more motivated," Witty said. "Or if there are problems with his skates, I'm going to deal with those issues different than the U.S. coaches are."
Swider-Peltz Jr. said it was important to have her mother--the only coach she has ever had--on the ice with her.
"I could survive without having her on the ice but it's not what I prefer," she said. "She says things that trigger certain actions in my skating, technique stuff. It's the warming up. It's being there for me all along the way until I get to the line. That's how she coaches me. I need her there, no doubt.
"They're probably just laughing at us out there in Salt Lake City. It's frustrating."
Goskowicz said he understood how the skaters felt but pointed out that they had competed many times internationally without their coaches present.
"Can it affect you? I think it can," he said. "But the one mitigating factor is that the athletes themselves can go anywhere they want in the venue. They can go up in the stands and talk to their coaches."
Goskowicz pointed to one athlete who achieved stunning success without his personal coach at his side.
"At the Summer Games in Beijing, Michael Phelps was there and the U.S. swimming coaches were there (on the pool deck)," he said. "His coach was sitting up in the stands. And he won eight gold medals."
That's of little consolation to the speedskating coaches, who claim the governing body's unwillingness to work with them is an old problem. They suggest it has something to do with the fact that their athletes succeed outside the national program, which is funded by the USOC.
"I think that's one of the components, for sure," Marchese said. "When the budget from the USOC is in the millions and skaters from outside the national program are out-performing national team skaters, that doesn't paint a positive picture for the NGB."
Carpenter, who founded the Milwaukee-based Swift team, agreed.
"I know U.S. Speedskating has some sort of negative opinion about me," he said. "I don't think they like the fact that I started this program here and the skaters are improving. We have skaters that are finishing ahead of their skaters and knocking their skaters off world and Olympic teams. I think that's healthy for the sport, but they don't like it.
"It's kind of political. A few guys at the top say, 'We don't like Kip Carpenter. Why should we help him get out there and make us look bad?' That's my opinion."
America's best long-track speedskater, Shani Davis, is not a national team member. He trains in Milwaukee but is mostly self-coached. Davis will be favored to win gold medals in the 1,000 and 1,500 in Vancouver.
"If Shani wins medals, the USOC says, 'What's going on here? We're giving you $2.5 million and Shani is winning medals outside your program,' " Carpenter said. "It just makes the NGB look bad."
At the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, U.S. Speedskating obtained a field of play credential for Bob Fenn, a personal coach from Milwaukee who was working with Davis. The skater went on to win gold and silver medals.
Goskowicz said to his knowledge that was the only time a private speedskating coach ever was credentialed for the Olympics.
"If Nancy was a gold medal contender, believe me, things would be different," Swider-Peltz Sr. said. "When you just focus on the medalists, I think it sends a message that you're insecure as an organization."