Georgia swim coach Jack Bauerle watches swimmers at last week's U.S. Olympic Team practice in Knoxville. Bauerle will have 12 current or former swimmers competing in London.
KNOXVILLE (WRCB) -- Most members of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team grinned as "Rocky Top" came blaring through the speakers at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center on the Tennessee campus last week.
Several others, however, cringed.
That's what happens when you're a Georgia Bulldog in enemy territory.
"Everybody on the team is great, but you always have that Georgia bond," said first-time Olympian Shannon Vreeland. "Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog."
Jack Bauerle is the tie that binds them.
The top dawg of UGA swimming is the winningest active NCAA coach and a four-time national champion. This year he has five current or former Georgia swimmers heading to the London Olympics on Team USA.
"It's no secret why Jack keeps putting kids on the Olympic team," said three-time Olympian Kara Lynn Joyce, a former Bulldog. "He certainly knows what he's doing over there."
Joyce was one of four swimmers with UGA ties to medal at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. She also joined Allison Schmitt on the podium in Beijing in 2008 when Baurle was Team USA's head coach.
Schmitt and Joyce are both returning to the world's biggest stage this year, along with three UGA first-timers who were motivated by the Bulldogs' Olympic pedigree.
"Getting in the pool every day and racing with those girls fosters a confidence," said Vreeland, who was named to the team as an alternate for the freestyle relays. "When you get to trials you realize you've trained with these people and raced with these people. It just brings down your nerve level, because those were my first trials as well.
"It just speaks for how hard everybody at Georgia works."
And it explains why many of the world's best swimmers want to be at Georgia.
Not only does UGA have five reps on Team USA, but an additional seven current or former Bulldogs will represent six other countries in London.
"Georgia has always had a team that all clicks. It doesn't matter what different personalities we have, we're always able to come together because we have the same common goals," said Schmitt, who dominated the middle-distance freestyle races at the Olympic Trials to earn her second trip to the Summer Games.
Andrew Gemmell (1,500 meter freestyle) and Amanda Weir (freestyle relay alternate) will join Joyce, Schmitt and Vreeland on Team USA. Meanwhile fellow current, former or future Bulldogs Troyden Prinsloo, (South Africa), Wendy Trott (South Africa), Yousef Alarskari (Kuwait), Matias Koski (Finland), Brittany MacLean (Canada), Sarah Poewe (Germany) and Ediz Yildirimer (Turkey) will represent their native countries.
Team USA diving captain Chris Colwill is also a Bulldog, giving UGA 13 Olympians in the water in London.
It makes for one big melting pot at the UGA Aquatic Center during the season, but with one common goal in mind.
"When you come to Georgia you're around people who have been to the Olympics and you see the Olympic rings are tattooed on your training partners back," said Gemmell. "To be a part of that program where it's a daily part of your routine, it's truly something special."
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