Georgia swimming head coach Jack Bauerle is slowly building his own dynasty of Olympic swimmers.
Bauerle will join the U.S. Olympic team as an assistant coach. However, he was more excited about seeing his athletes reach the apex of their careers.
“It’s a neat thing and it sort of sneaks up on you a little bit,” he said. “I’m proud of them and happy that this experience changes their life. In a way, we have already gotten through the rough part and making the team. Just going down there is like a cherry on top.”
Twelve of his current or former athletes are heading to Rio to compete for various countries.
Gunnar Bentz, Chase Kalisz, Jay Litherland, Javier Acevedo (Canada) and Matias Koski (Finland) are competing in the men’s events.
On the women’s side, Amanda Weir headlines the group along with U.S. captain Allison Schmitt, Hali Flickinger, Chantal Van Landeghem (Canada), Olivia Smoliga, Brittany MacLean (Canada) and Melanie Margalis,.
Weir is the senior veteran among the Georgia contingent. She is the oldest women’s swimmer as she first competed in her first Olympics in 2004. There she won two silver medals as apart of the U.S. 4×100 freestyle and 4×100 medley teams.
Now entering her third Olympics, her excitement continues to grow as she remembers her first time as an Olympian.
“That first Olympic games I will never forget as everything was so exciting and so new,” Weir said. “There was so much optimism and it was really cool. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
The experience has helped her teammates feel more comfortable. The majority of the Georgia athletes have never been to an Olympics and she has given them advice on what to expect on such a big stage.
“It’s been really cool watching all the younger swimmers come together,” Weir said. I think it is more rookies on the team than I had experienced before, so it has been very different and exciting. Everything is new for them and I try to tell them to stick with your plan.”
For first-time athlete Kalisz that is exactly his mentality. Kalisz won the bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in the 400m individual medley. This time he is hoping to win a gold medal by continuing to focus on what he can control.
“It is kinda just focusing on hitting those times and fine-tuning my race plans,” Kalisz said. “I wanted to build my hundredth’s (time) and I did a good job of that. Everything is looking good moving forward and they say nothing compares to an Olympic Games. You got to treat it like all your other meets and take care of your business.”
Other athletes like Allison Schmitt has seen there roles change since the 2012 London Olympics. Schmitt is now a captain and the key cog to the 4x200m freestyle. Her goal is to provide leadership to the team that is looking for guidance.
“It’s amazing that team can look up to me and and open up to ask questions,” Schmitt said. It is an honor that is above any other accomplishment. To be named captain is something that I can’t put into words. To represent the red, white and blue and lead the team is Rio is something that I am looking forward too.”
With many new pieces and talented rookies from Georgia, the U.S. Olympic Swim team is considerably favored to win a lion’s share of the gold medals. Bauerle believes they have a chance as they have proved it throughout the World Championships and Olympic trials.
“The biggest test is to try and improve between trials and the Olympics themselves,” he said. “We have great coaches on this staff and we are ready to go.”
The U.S. Olympic swim team will hit the waters for preliminary competition on Aug.6.
By Jaylon Thompson