Allison Schmitt: Better than Ever
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
In many ways, the Allison Schmitt who made her first Olympic team in 2008 as a recent high school graduate was a precursor to the confident, strong young woman who helped the United States dominate in London last summer.
She took the 2011-12 season off from college (classes and swimming), moved to Baltimore to train with Bob Bowman (and Michael Phelps), changed her eating habits and dedicated herself to getting stronger in the gym – all in an effort to put herself in the best position to not only make the Olympic team but win gold.
She cooked for herself for the first time and paid attention to her nutrition. She was able to work on stroke techniques, turns and underwaters with Bowman – and she made significant improvement in the weight room – going from not being able to do one pull-up to knocking out sets of eight by the time Olympic Trials came around.
And Phelps, someone she had become close with during his training at the University of Michigan leading up to 2008 Trials, helped her focus more on her races and conserving energy – something at which he was very proficient.
“I was feeling great (at Trials)!” Schmitt said. “I redshirted and moved to North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC) to get the most out of the year and concentrate solely on swimming, which seemed to really work out.
“We had a great training group, and Bob and Keenan (Robinson) definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone in practice and dryland/weights, which helped me a ton! I think the memories and experiences I had both last year and at the Olympics are something I will always have and cherish.”
And her results speak for themselves.
The same young lady who won a single bronze (800 freestyle relay) medal in Beijing returned to the Olympic Trials last year in Omaha on fire – winning two individual events (200 and 400 freestyle).
She would go on to win three gold medals – 200 free (Olympic record time), 400 medley (world record time) and 800 free relay – as well as silver (400 free) and bronze medals (400 free relay).
Those results not only made her one of the most successful athletes at the London Games, but they propelled her into knowing and accepting that she is among the elite swimmers in the world – something she intends to continue to prove this week at the Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships in Indianapolis.
“I probably surprised many people last year, and I defiantly exceeded my expectations,” said Schmitt, who will swim the 100, 200 and 400 freestyles at Nationals, where the 2013 U.S. World Championship team will be selected. “It gave me more confidence, so I know that I can repeat it. Now, I will make my goals for the next few years and work toward those new goals.”
Having finished her college eligibility this past March by helping lead her Georgia Bulldog teammates to an NCAA Championship, Schmitt said she has focused her training the past few months on refining, and in many ways, regaining her long course form.
While she’ll return this fall to finish her degree (she didn’t go to school the first semester of her freshman year after signing an Olympic waiver so she has one more semester left), Schmitt is committed to her future as a swimmer and is excited to see where she can take herself in the sport.
“It still feels the same right now because I don’t think it has sunk in how old I’m getting,” she said with a laugh. “It'll definitely be weird not doing dual meets, SECs, and NCAAs moving forward. Even when I took the 2011-12 season off to focus on training for the Olympics, I knew I’d be back competing with my teammates. But ending with a team title is definitely the best way to go out!”
Still on her own personal high almost a year after her strong performance at the Olympics, Schmitt said she is itching to get back in the water and compete again.
She attributes her competitive nature to growing up in a large family of seven – with five kids always having a competitive nature – but always fun-loving. That has translated to her swimming.
“I think that was brought over into swimming, so I love having fun with it and making the most out of everything, but I also love racing,” Schmitt said. “I definitely still have motivation and goals to accomplish, which is why I'm continuing. I also love inspiring and motivating the younger swimmers who give the sport some fresh excitement!
“I'm so excited to race! This year was tough to get into, but I'm definitely ready to race. My long-term goals are always in the back of my mind, but there are also the stepping-stone goals in order to reach my top goals, so right now I’m focusing on this summer.”