Happy 30th Birthday Allison Schmitt! Fourth Olympics At 31 In Her Career-Transition Sights

Allison Schmitt - a high-five for fun and the future - Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

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Many Happy Returns Of The Day Allison Schmitt – Now A Thirtysomething

Back in January, before we knew of the impact COVID-19 would have on the world, we looked forward to the swimming years ahead by considering the thrilling prospect of Allison Schmitt gunning for a fourth Olympic Games. A ticket to Tokyo would add her to an American swim sorority of four-timers alongside and Dara Torres (the U.S. record holder at five Games, 1984-92, 2000, 2008), Jenny Thompson (1992-2004) and Amanda Beard (1996-2008), while Jill Sterkel (1976-88) was another who was selected for four Games but denied actually racing at four by the 1980 boycott.

Here’s that article recalled on Allison Schmitt approaching 30 and a fourth Games – before a memory from the archive: the day of her great 200m freestyle victory at the London Olympic Games:

First published January 22,2020:

“I almost feel like a mom sometimes,” 29-year-old Allison Schmitt told Steve Megargee of Associated Press (AP) after winning the 200m free in a solid 1:56 on Pro-Series tour in Knoxville last Friday.

“I’m like, ‘What does that mean?’ They have to tell me what things mean, the new slang words.”

Schmitt, the 2012 Olympic 200m champion who also claimed silver over 400m, is talking about life back in  school and training with Arizona State’s swimmers under the guidance of long-term coach Bob Bowman.

A graduate student at Arizona State, Schmitt, who has done much to raise awareness of mental-health issues and living with depression, joined the internship program last year counseling students.

She intends to return to her own studies at the end of the coming summer, having taken time out of late to seek a berth on the Team USA swim squad for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

A goal achieved would make it Schmitt’s fourth Games and grant her a ticket to an American swim sorority of four-timers alongside and Dara Torres (the U.S. record holder at five Games, 1984-92, 2000, 2008), Jenny Thompson (1992-2004) and Amanda Beard (1996-2008), while Jill Sterkel (1976-88) was another who was selected for four Games but denied actually racing at four by the 1980 boycott.

Outside of the United States, Therese Alshammer, of Sweden, raced in the pool at six Games, a feat that could be matched by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini if she makes the cut for Tokyo 2020. Of late, Pellegrini joined the chorus of sports stars speaking out on climate-change in the wake of the Australian-bushfire crisis.

Allison Schmitt, who turns 30 on June 7, had intended to make Rio 2016 her Olympic swan song. Even as her friend and then teammate Michael Phelps posted an Instagram photo of them making hand gestures that formed “2020”, writes Megargee, Schmitt indicated there was no way she’d be back.

Phelps had said the same after London 2012 and for Schmitt, that ‘2020’ pose with him had planted a seed.  It would not be all that long before she was ‘keeping fit… having fun’ but then, she now says, “twice a week turned into three times, four times, five times until eventually where we are now.”

Back in 2018 Schmitt talked about what it meant for her to be back in the fast swim lane:

Bowman, who has coached Schmitt since 2006, says 14 years on that Schmitt is much more grounded during this Olympic bid:

“She sees that swimming is a big part of her life, but it’s not who she is. She has her own identity outside of that. She has her own life outside of it. She’s now made a path for what’s going to happen after swimming. That was the only way I’d really agree to her continuing to swim, if she had a clear-cut sort of exit strategy. She does now, which she did not have in ’16 and really didn’t have in ’12.”

Meanwhile, Schmitt says she has yet to decide her specialty yet in the mental health field:

“I’ve been lucky enough to have swimming as my job, which I’ve loved. To be able to wake up and have a passion and do your job with passion and love is what we’re all striving to find. Hopefully, I can find that in my career after swimming as well.”

Read the AP article in full at the San Diego Union Tribune

Today, June 7, Bowman was among the first to congratulate Schmitt, coach and pupils yet, these days at the Arizona State Sun Devils:

Schmitt talking about her 200 free win at 2019 nationals and her future career:

From The Archive

Allison Schmitt In A Class Of Her Own For Gold In World Textile Best Over 200m Freestyle

Olympic Games, London 2012, Day 4 Finals

Allison Schmitt celebrated 200m freestyle gold for the USA in 1:53.61, an Olympic record, ahead of 400m winner Camille Muffat (FRA), on 1:55.58, the bronze going to Bronte Barratt (AUS) in 1:55.81. The race put an end to the seven-orb potential of Schmitt’s team-mate Missy Franklin and the Olympic reign of Federica Pellegrini (ITA), who finishing fifth in 1:56.73.

After Franklin, in lane 8, turned first at the 50m in 27.02, Schmitt, on 27.18, tore away to a 55.58 lead by the half-way mark, Franklin still closest on 56.23, Muffat third in 56.38, Barratt on 56.52 in fourth. Only the order of the top four would change, Pellegrini crushed by the opening pace and in 7th in 56.98 at the turn. There was no coming back from that.

Coached by Bob Bowman in Baltimore, Schmitt put in a 28.97 third-length split and ended any lingering doubt with a 29.26 last 50m (a split that delivered a touch more context on that 28.93 of Ye Shiwen down the closing 50m of a 400m medley victory that matched the finishing speed of her male counterpart-champion Ryan Lochte).

In the 200m free final, Schmitt was peerless, in a class of her own. The world textile best, of which she was already owner, was cut back to 1:54.40. There was no getting to the 2009 shiny suits world record of Pellegrini, a 1:52.98 from the Italian ace one of a class of swims that will forever be viewed in the context of the moment, even when part of soaring careers that hardly needed Rome 2009 World titles to prove lofty status.

By the last turn, Schmitt motoring to victory, Muffat had moved into the lead on 1:25.92, Franklin hanging on to third in 1:25.96, Barratt threatening on 1:26.16. The American setting the pace made sure that the hunt for home was all about the minor spoils, Muffat and Barratt just 0.01sec apart on the last split (29.65 the swifter of the two, from the Australian), Franklin’s 29.86 lacking a podium punch by the smallest of margins.

Schmitt shared a joke with Michael Phelps before the final on Tuesday – and said she was still laughing afterwards as she recalled the moment and let her stunning triumph sink in:

“I just tried to keep focused and keep calm. Mike and I were joking before the race that he said as soon as you get on the blocks it’s time to start focusing. It still hasn’t sunk in and I couldn’t be happier bringing home hardware to the US, let alone a gold medal.”

Schmitt is the fourth American to win the 200m crow. After the inaugural title went to Debbie Meyer in 1968, the United States would wait until Mary Wayte in 1984 for the next victory, Sippy Woodhead, in silver, having missed her best shot because of boycott in 1980. Nicole Haislett then pipped 14-year-old Franziska Van Almsick for the gold in 1992. Today, Schmitt ended a 20-year, five-cycle drought for the USA.

After the Games she will return home to Michigan and then go back to school, having taken a year out to focus on the Games.


Allison Schmitt – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The Thread of History Allison Schmitt is now a part of:

London 2012

  • 1. Allison Schmitt (USA) 1:53.61 OR
  • 2. Camille Muffat (FRA) 1:55.58
  • 3. Bronte Barratt (AUS) 1:55.81

Beijing 2008:

  • 1. Federica Pellegrini (ITA) 1:54.82 (27.27, 55.92, 1:25.57)
  • 2. Sara Isakovic (SLO) 1:54.97
  • 3. Pang Jiaying (CHN) 1:55.05

Fastest field in history: London 2012 final – 1:53.61 – 1:57.68

Comparison fields:

  • London 2012:  1:53.61 – 1:57.68
  • (Shanghai 2012: 1:55.58 – 1:58.26 – World titles)
  • Beijing 2008: 1:54.82 – 1:57.83
  • Athens 2004: 1:58.03 – 1:59.20

To qualify for the final it took: 

  • 1:57.57 London 2012
  • 1:57.07 Shanghai 2011
  • 1:58.00 Beijing 2008