UGA Olympians happy to be back in school but still enjoying limelight

UGA swimmers and Olympic gold medalists Allison Schmitt (L) and Shannon Vreeland share a laugh as they answer reporters' questions Wednesday at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

UGA swimmers and Olympic gold medalists Allison Schmitt (L) and Shannon Vreeland share a laugh as they answer reporters' questions Wednesday at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

ATHENS -- There were a lot of smiles, a lot of laughs and a couple of big chunks of gold being shared Wednesday at the University of Georgia.

Allison Schmitt and Shannon Vreeland — two of 14 UGA swimmers past, present and future represented at the 2012 Olympic Games — came to the Bulldogs’ football complex on Wednesday to talk about their experiences in London and show off their gold medals. Schmitt, a senior, won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze and Vreeland, a junior, won one gold during the games.

Both athletes returned to Georgia for fall semester to resume for their college careers. Needless to say, Jack Bauerle’s Bulldogs ought to be pretty decent in the pool this year.

“I feel pretty good about our relays,” Bauerle said with a sly grin. “I think we’ll be all right.”

“We’re proud of these two young ladies obviously,” Bauerle continued. “We had a strong contingent in London, but there was certainly a lot of focus on these two young ladies for what they did. We’re proud of what they did for Team USA and we’re proud of what they did for Georgia. And I think their lives have changed a little bit forever.”

That’s an understatement. Schmitt spent her previous three years on UGA’s campus in relative anonymity. But not after NBC captured her incredible athleticism and effervescent personality in dozens of hours of prime-time Olympic coverage.

“Even today somebody stopped me as I was walking to the bus and asked me, ‘Are you Allison Schmitt?’” said Schmitt, who rarely says anything without an accompanying giggle. “I was like, ‘yeah, that’s me.’ And somebody came up to me in class and asked for a picture. So it’s kind of weird when people recognize me because I didn’t realize how many people watched the Olympics. It’s kind of cool.”

Vreeland attracted attention in London for being a relative bit player on the powerful U.S. team who got tabbed at the last minute to swim the third leg of the 4×200-meter freestyle. All they did was set an Olympic record.

“I was on the bus the other day and somebody asked me, ‘would it be creepy just to congratulate you?’” said Vreeland, who is from Overland Park, Kan. “I’m like, ‘no, that’s totally fine.’ I really appreciate it. I think it’s really cool that so many people watched the Olympics and that they’d take the time say congratulations on the bus. It means a lot.”

Bauerle, who has directed Georgia to four NCAA title and is a five-time NCAA Coach of the Year, was beaming sitting next to his two stars. It’s somewhat unusual for gold medalists to return to college when so many outside opportunities come available after a successful Olympics.

But both women said they never considered not returning to Georgia.

“Hey, we have some of the fastest swimmers in the world right here,” said Schmitt, only the second UGA student to return to school with an individual gold medal. “I love swimming for whatever is on my cap and I’m honored to come back to Georgia for my last year and swim with the ‘G’ on my cap. I’m excited to get back in the water with this team. I think we have great things ahead for us and I’m proud to be a Bulldog.”

25 comments Add your comment

Biggest Dawg

August 22nd, 2012
3:41 pm

Awesome girls..so proud!

Bob in Buford

August 22nd, 2012
3:45 pm

WDE

August 22nd, 2012
3:49 pm

Outstanding young ladies ! Congrats !

chilidawg

August 22nd, 2012
3:52 pm

RxDawg

August 22nd, 2012
3:56 pm

Burdell

August 22nd, 2012
4:09 pm

Congrats ladies! You made this Tech fan proud.

Can you even imagine winning an Olympic medal and then returning to class weeks later? Craziness!

Top Dawg

August 22nd, 2012
4:12 pm

Awesome job, well done ladies!!

Ok… back to football……….

Vince

August 22nd, 2012
4:21 pm

Shannon and Allison—You were both AWESOME at the Olympics!!!! We are so proud to call you true Georgia Bulldogs!!!

Dawg Fud

August 22nd, 2012
4:21 pm

The USA women clearly picked up the men’s slack at the London games. Our medal count would have been irrelevant without them.

Top Row Dawg

August 22nd, 2012
4:23 pm

That is so cool you two gals. Y’all Facebook and Twitter Missy Franklin and help Jack bring her to Athens too.

dawggirl

August 22nd, 2012
4:36 pm

Well done, ladies! True champions and proud to call them Dawgs!!

bucket

August 22nd, 2012
4:50 pm

@ Burdell – exactly! That has to be surreal to go to class after all that they experienced this summer. I would love to read their essay on “What I did this summer”! (Do they still do that? I may be dating myself!)

T2 Dawg

August 22nd, 2012
8:33 pm

I am incredibly proud of both of you. At work I was bragging to everyone that would listen about the two of you. Best of luck this season, GO DAWGS!!!

dawgnation

August 23rd, 2012
1:30 am

Congrats ladies on your terrific achievements! You make everyone in the Dawgnation very proud! Good luck this season

[...] Georgia’s Olympic swimmers still enjoying the limelight [...]

Chuck UGA

August 23rd, 2012
9:10 am

Awesome, ladies! Will come see you at a meet! Go Dawgs!

Michael Phelps

August 23rd, 2012
9:10 am

“YOU’RE ONLY CHEATING YOURSELF ALLISON!…”

Hilarious video of Phelps training with Schmitt that they kept showing on the Olympics. Sounds like Allison not only achieved a great deal individually, …but also really helped Phelps in and out of the pool. So proud and so glad these wonderful girls wear the “G”!

robodawg

August 23rd, 2012
11:05 am

DGDs. Congratulations to both of them! Glad they returned to school.

93 Dawg

August 23rd, 2012
12:43 pm

Very Cool. Congratulations girls. GO DAWGS AND GO USA!!

ssidawg

August 23rd, 2012
5:26 pm

So proud of y’all! I hope you have a great year! Go DAWGS!!

[...] Georgia’s Olympic swimmers still enjoying the limelight [...]

[...] Georgia’s Olympic swimmers still enjoying the limelight [...]

OrlandoDawg

August 24th, 2012
9:54 am

Congratulations! Awesome! Olympians! Wow! and all the other adjectives! Whoohoo! Love you gals, we are so proud of YOU! Go Dawgs! Can’t wait to have a standing ovation in Sanford Stadium for both of you! Hope it happens the first game, but will be at all of them if it doesn’t…

[...] Georgia’s Olympic swimmers still enjoying the limelight [...]

Twiggs Tanner

August 25th, 2012
8:50 am

The whole Bulldog nation is really proud of both of you!!!