ATHENS, Ga. (WRBL) – Team USA is expected to make a strong showing in swimming at the Tokyo Olympics. The University of Georgia has the distinction of putting more former swimmers on the team than any other college in the country.
At the recent Olympic Trials held in Omaha, Nebraska, seven former Bulldog swimmers landed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team along with Georgia head swim coach Jack Bauerle.
“It’s sort of a late dream come true,” says Bauerle. “When you walk into the Olympic Trials, you really just want to put someone on, and then anything after that is gravy.”
The University of Georgia contingent in Tokyo includes former Bulldogs: Gunnar Bentz (200 meter butterfly); Nic Fink (200 meter breaststroke); Hali Flickinger (200 meter butterfly and 400 meter individual medley); Chase Kalicz (200 and 400 meter individual medley); Jay Litherland (400 meter individual medley); Allison Schmitt (200 meter freestyle and 4×100 meter freestyle relay); and Olivia Smoliga (4×100 meter freestyle relay).
Bauerle is no novice when it comes to the Olympics. This will be the fourth time he has made it on the U.S. Olympic team coaching staff. In his 43 years at the helm of the University of Georgia swimming program, his teams have won seven national titles and produced 61 different NCAA champions.
Bauerle says, “I try to be persistent and consistent, and I try to be fair. The philosophy is to be consistent with the athletes and work as hard as they do.”
This will be Nic Fink’s first Olympics and the former Bulldog credits his coach. “He knows what he wants to see and he’s willing to work with you as opposed to, hey, I’m your coach, you’re not doing this right. It’s more casual and I think I really like that about his coaching style.”
Nic is seeing his dream come true in Tokyo. “To represent Georgia at the Olympic level is something that I’ve always wanted to do since I set foot on campus. Having a huge group (from UGA) says a lot about the program. It says a lot about Jack and how he puts people on Olympic teams.”
Bauerle clearly knows how to get the most out of his athletes physically. But when it comes to preparing for the Olympics, mental preparation is paramount. He says, “When you get to this point, the reason why we’re sitting here with Olympians, it’s gigantic because it becomes all about confidence. And that’s sort of my daily job…to make sure they feel good about themselves.”
For years U.S. swimmers have tried to beat each other. Bauerle says now it’s time to shift the focus to their international challengers in Tokyo.
Bauerle is a product of the University of Georgia. He was recruited out of high school in Philadelphia to come to Athens. It’s been fifty years since his swimming days as a Bulldog. Butterfly was his specialty along with the 1,650 yard freestyle. He set school records in both events.
In looking back at the sport five decades later, Bauerle says, “Anything technically at that time means nothing now at all. That’s how much our sport has changed. It’s changed that much even in the last 20 years. Totally different stroke analysis, stroke technique, everything has changed.”
At age 69, Bauerle is the dean of SEC coaches, having the longest tenure of any other coach in the conference. He was named women’s head swim coach in 1979. Four years later he also assumed the men’s head coaching title. He has a combined record for both programs of 586-136-4 which ranks first among active NCAA coaches. His women’s teams set an NCAA record winning 103 consecutive dual meets from 1995 to 2017.
Among the top highlights of Bauerle’s Olympic career was his being named head coach of the Team USA women’s swim team for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Under his leadership Americans won 14 medals, the most of any country at the Games. During his career Bauerle has produced 88 Olympians representing 20 different nations.
Fifty years ago, WRBL News 3’s Phil Scoggins and Jack Bauerle both swam for the Georgia Bulldogs. Ahead of the Olympics, Scoggins called his former teammate to arrange the interview that led to the story above.