Allison Schmitt was born on June 7, 1990 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The middle of five children, she grew up in Canton, Michigan, and took up swimming at age 9. By the time she reached college, Schmitt was regularly training with Bob Bowman, trainer of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who helped her get to the 2012 Summer Olympics, where she won five medals for her record-breaking performances.
American Olympic swimmer Allison Rodgers Schmitt was born on June 7, 1990 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to parents Ralph and Gail Schmitt. She and her four siblings were raised in Canton, Michigan. At the age of 9, Schmitt followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Kirsten, and began swimming. There had been no indication that Schmitt would one day become among the fastest swimmers in the world, according to Josh Morgan, who had been Schmitt's coach from the ages of 11 to 14.
In the spring of Schmitt's junior year of high school, she showcased her speed and talent at the 2007 Junior National Team competition in Orlando, Florida. Soon after, she began training alongside Olympian Michael Phelps under the guidance of his coach, Bob Bowman. When Bowman relocated to Baltimore, Schmitt followed and continued to train for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she won her first Olympic medal—a bronze in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle.
Schmitt specializes in freestyle events and is a six-time Olympic medalist. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, she won three gold medals—in the 200-meter freestyle (where she set a new Olympic record), in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay and in the 4-by-100-meter medley relay—as well a silver medal in the 400-meter freestyle and a bronze in the 4-by-100-meter freestyle relay.
In addition to her Olympic achievements, Schmitt earned recognition for her performance in the 2009 World Championships in Rome. There, she won a silver medal in the 200-meter freestyle, finishing behind world record holder Federica Pellegrini. At the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai, Schmitt won a gold medal in the 4-by-200-meter freestyle relay.
Throughout the first three years of Schmitt's college education at the University of Georgia, where she majored in psychology, she participated in the NCAA competition and became a four-time NCAA national champion, winning the 500-yard freestyle in 2009, 2010 and 2011. She also won the 200-yard freestyle in 2010.
According to an August 1, 2012 article in The Baltimore Sun, Schmitt—also known as "Schmitty," Al or Allie—is known for her infectious laughter and love of dancing. "But once in the water," the article reads, "Schmitt is fearsome."
Still, being around Schmitt is fun, at least according to Michael Phelps, who told The Baltimore Sun that it is because of her that he looks forward to practice. Of Phelps, Schmitt says that he taught her how to focus her energy into her races, "swimming smarter by saving fuel for the final legs." Bowman, both Schmitt's and Phelps's coach, said Schmitt has "really learned the mental game." She remains focused when needed and relaxes when needed, he said, noting that that is key to winning.
Much of Schmitt's inspiration comes from her parents. Of her parents, she told USA Swimming in 2008, "They are so supportive of my dreams and ambitions. They have given me so many opportunities to excel in life and have set a good example for me to follow."
Schmitt plans to return to the University of Georgia to complete her senior year of college following the 2012 Summer Olympics. There, she intends to resume NCAA swimming with the Georgia Bulldogs, where fellow 2012 Summer Olympic gold medalist Shannon Vreeland will be her teammate. But Schmitt said she's unsure of how much longer she will swim. "Maybe to the next Olympics [in 2016], maybe not," she said in an interview with USA Swimming. "It depends on a lot of things."
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