|Allison Schmitt celebrates after winning gold in the women's 200m
freestyle final at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics
Centre on July 31, 2012 in London.
July 31, 2012 — the day of the women’s 200m freestyle final — started with a late morning wakeup. I met Michael (Phelps) at breakfast around 10 a.m. and then we went to the warm-up pool. After some stretching and a short swim, we were back on the bus. I got back to the room at the same time my roommate, Elizabeth Beisel, was getting back from prelims. We took a short nap and then went into the common area debating if we should leave the red and blue nail polish on an extra day or switch it to pink. Of course the red and blue nail polish won.
Getting ready to leave for finals, I gave my “medal ceremony” bag to Kathleen Hersey (she brought the award ceremony gear to the pool for me in case I would need it) and then went to get my third EVER cup of coffee at the carts outside our dorm. I arrived to the pool and Bob Bowman called me over. He asked me, “So how are you going to swim this?” I smiled and said “uh, fast.” He asked me my plan and I laughed, turning to Michael for help. The most important thing he said was to stay off the legs the first 50. Bob, our trainer Keenan and Michael looked at me, smiled and said “Let’s go Schmitty, you got it, no playing around!”
I got in for my normal warm-up and felt great! After going back to put my suit on, Beisel came to keep me company. She was telling me funny stories that were happening in the stands during warm-up! Once we got back to our team area, we blasted Rihanna and sang along into a hair brush. As it was the last call for the ready room, I said bye to Michael, Bob and Keenan, wishing Michael good luck in his 200 fly.
I made my way to the ready room with Missy (Franklin), Beisel, and our manager Andy. Andy and Beisel left us at the door and Missy and I walked in to get our suits, goggles and smiles checked. (I loved the one official that checked if we had a smile!) Missy and I continued to laugh, as we could hear Beisel talking through the thin walls.
I was listening to my country music before walking out, but took the headphones off one ear and turned off the music simply to listen to the crowd. I couldn’t stop smiling as I walked out. I had been waiting for these finals since my disappointing ninth-place finish at the 2008 Olympic Games.
I kept my parka on until Lane 7 walked out and the crowd erupted for the Great Britain swimmer. I pretended it was all for me. I swung my arms and looked up at the section where our team was sitting and just smiled and waved. I felt so relaxed and couldn’t stop smiling as I was telling myself to act serious. The whistle was blown and I stepped up on the block…all I could feel was the water dripping off of me and all I could see was the water in front of me.
Before I could even grasp that I was one of the eight in the Olympic final, the beep sounded and the race had suddenly begun. I felt so strong off the start and I could see I came up ahead. I was concentrating on easy speed, leaving my legs out of the race just like we had talked about. I hit my first turn perfectly and felt strong off the wall. I could tell I was ahead and I was thinking, “I hope I didn’t take it out too fast,” but I knew this is how I had been practicing. I hit the halfway point and kept kicking hard. Not yet feeling the pain, I was hoping I wasn’t going to regret kicking so early. I hit my third turn and couldn’t tell if there was someone close to my pace on the outside lane, but kept my head down. I kept my streamline tight knowing this was my last wall of the race.
With 15 meters left, I was thinking “I think I just won.” After touching the wall, I looked up at the clock, making sure I had clocked a time, and immediately threw my arm up. I had finally done it!
I looked around and smiled and waved at our team and the fans as they were waving the American flag high and calling my name. I walked out for the award ceremony, just like I had the night before, but this time I was the one walking in the middle. I looked to my left and saw Team USA cheering so loudly. I looked to my right and saw that my family had gotten down close to the deck. They were waving and taking pictures! I looked straight ahead and saw the American flag that was about to be raised. I could not stop smiling.
Allison Schmitt is an Olympic swimmer who has earned six medals across two Olympic Games. In her Olympic debut at age 18, Schmitt helped Team USA earn bronze in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Schmitt swam away from the London 2012 Olympic Games with an impressive five medals, including gold in the 200-meter freestyle, 4x200-meter freestyle relay and 4x100-meter medley relay, silver in the 400-meter freestyle, and bronze in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay. Schmitt was the first American woman to win the 200-meter freestyle since Mary Wayte did so at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.