Allison Schmitt’s name is already well known within NCAA and U.S. swimming circles, but it is highly possible she is preparing to introduce herself to a much broader audience.
The Georgia all-American, who recently took first in both the 200-meter and 400-meter freestyle at the U.S. swimming trials, is one of American swimming's most promising medal candidates at the London Olympics.
“I’m a little more experienced now,” Schmitt said, looking back on her experience since the 2008 Olympics, when she earned bronze on the U.S. 4x200 relay team. “I know what to expect so I can plan for the obstacles that are going to happen or what’s going to happen that isn’t exactly on my plan and I can be more flexible with that. So I have a lot more confidence and I’ve raced a few of the international people that have already made their Olympic Games, so I’m pretty confident in racing them, too.”
Schmitt followed a somewhat unusual path to the London Games, taking the last academic year off to focus solely on training and competitions. She trained in Baltimore over the last year with swimming superstar Michael Phelps and coach Bob Bowman -- with whom she also worked before the 2008 Olympics -- and plans to return to Georgia after the Olympics to complete her final year of eligibility and finish her degree in psychology.
“I was happy with how I did [in 2008] and this is going to be my prime Olympics, so I just wanted to give it my best shot and go back and train the same way I did before 2008 without school, without the worry of going to class,” she said. “It’s been a lot less stressful.”
The extra training time paid off at the U.S. swimming trials, where she broke her own American record in the 200 freestyle with a time of 1 minute, 54.40 seconds -- also the best time in the world this year. She had already qualified for the Olympics by winning the 400 freestyle earlier in the trials, and she will also swim on the U.S. 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams, bringing her total number of Olympic events to four.
“It’s definitely a great honor to have the American flag and your name on the cap and to be with elite athletes that are also representing your country, it’s great to all be together and represent the country,” Schmitt said.
Obviously she has other concerns in the coming weeks, but Schmitt is also excited about returning to Georgia for her senior year in search of the Lady Bulldogs’ first NCAA title since 2005, following national runner-up finishes in three of the last four years.
Already an eight-time NCAA champion in individual and relay events, Schmitt will give Georgia a great opportunity to finally break the second-place streak simply by returning to Coach Jack Bauerle’s lineup.
“I’m definitely excited. I don’t want to jinx anything, but we’re definitely working towards a national championship,” she said. “The three years I’ve been there before, we got second two years, so we definitely want to take that streak of second away and hopefully win a title there.”