By Jim Rusnak//Director of Editorial Properties | Friday, April 13, 2018
MESA, Ariz. – Back in 2016, Allison Schmitt was pretty sure she would be done with swimming after the Olympic Games in Rio. And for a while, she managed to stay away from the pool.
Then came the photos on social media of Schmitt working out with coach Bob Bowman at Arizona State, and then the ensuing whispers of a comeback.
Those whispers were confirmed Thursday night at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Mesa, as Schmitt made her return to competition for the first time since Rio, finishing second to Olympic teammate Leah Smith in the women’s 200 free in 1:59.57. (Smith finished first in 1:59.12).
“I started swimming just to stay in shape during classes, and it turned into nine practices a week, and here we are,” Schmitt said.
Ah yes. Here we are. But to be here, right now, is as much of a surprise to Schmitt as it is to anyone else.
She said swimming has always been her passion, but she had a countdown at every practice leading up to Rio, and after those Games, she was ready to be done. She was over swimming, and looking forward to a career outside the pool.
But something was missing. She got bored just going to class, and she wasn’t as fit as she was used to be. So she thought she would just give swimming a try… Again.
“I knew that watching the next Olympics, if I was sitting on the couch and never gave it a shot – I didn’t want that what-if,” Schmitt said. “So now here I am. Whatever happens, happens, but I’m excited to be back and competing, and this part of the journey is definitely exciting.”
Schmitt said she was surprised her first practices back in the water after a couple years off weren’t as hard as she thought they would be. Yes, she had a hard time keeping up at first. She was missing intervals and coming in last in her lane, but it was fun.
“I felt like I was 17 again, back at Club Wolverine training with all the Olympians,” Schmitt said. “I’m enjoying it just like when I was up-and-coming.”
She was equally surprised – and encouraged – by her second-place finish Thursday. She hasn’t been doing much long course training yet, and when she talked to Bowman last week before the meet, neither had any idea what to expect.
“Having fun and doing it for the joy of it was the ultimate goal,” Schmitt said. “That’s what I did. Having a good race like that was definitely a highlight, and I know that’s a great starting point.”
A great starting point – but what’s the end goal? Schmitt says her No. 1 priority is spreading mental health awareness. Beyond that, she’s not sure where her return to the pool will take her.
“I can’t really say right now,” Schmitt said. “I definitely have goals for 2020, but like I said, I’m just taking it day by day, having fun with it. The second that I’m not having fun is the time that I retire. I’ll sign those papers. But I’m having fun with it right now, and well see where it goes from there.”