Allison Schmitt's four Olympic medals this year have thrust the Canton native into the international spotlight as a breakout star of this year's Olympic Games in London.
Schmitt, 22, was born in Pittsburgh to Ralph and Gail Schmitt, who raised Allison and her siblings in Canton. She graduated Canton High School in 2008 and attends the University of Georgia.
Josh Morgan, co-coach of the Plymouth-Canton Cruisers swim club, coached Schmitt between the ages of 11 and 14 when he worked at the Ann Arbor Swim Club and said Schmitt showed some potential — and plenty of personality — early on.
Still, Morgan concedes, there was no indication at the time of just how well Schmitt could swim. Since the Olympics began July 27, Schmitt has earned two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
"Back then she was always a good swimmer, but not as much as she is now," said Morgan, who currently is coaching the Cruisers at a sectional meet at the University of Miami in Oxford, OH. "She was a lighthearted kid and worked hard and did some pretty good things, but definitely not what she's doing now."
Morgan said Schmitt and her family kept the mood light during her upbringing in the pool. Schmitt's persistent upbeat, positive attitude has been cited in the U.S. media, particularly because she reportedly inspired her training partner, 20-time Team USA medalist Michael Phelps, to give his all heading into this year's games.
Morgan said Schmitt started to show real potential near the end of her high school career.
"Her first real breakout swim, I think, was spring of her junior year of high school," he said. "She had done pretty well at the high school around Thanksgiving and went to the junior national meet in Orlando during the spring. She went from pretty fast to really fast."
Morgan said Schmitt dropped 4-5 seconds off her 200 freestyle time on a short course. Morgan said Schmitt went from a time of about 1 minute, 52 seconds to 1:47, which Morgan said put Schmitt in elite company.
"From there she kept rolling, showing a steady stream of improvement," he said.
Morgan said he has used Schmitt as an example for his young Cruisers swimmers, who swim out of Canton and Salem high schools and Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and he said the team has rallied around Schmitt's successes in London.
"(The team is) all spread out, but everyone's been watching and we've been sending some communications out via Twitter and Facebook and everybody's following pretty close," he said. Schmitt's brother, Derek, also is part of the Cruisers' coaching staff.
Morgan's 10-and-under girls sported "Team Schmitt" shirts when they swam at their state championships last weekend. He said he was "all smiles" when Schmitt won her first gold Tuesday.
Morgan said he is certain Schmitt will handle her newfound global fame well.
"I'm sure she's half enjoying it and half hoping for some quiet time at some point, but she's always, since she's been on the elite stage, she always takes time whenever she comes home," Morgan said. "She will swim with the local kids, go to the high school practices — just to go. We see her at some national-level meets."
In January, Morgan said, Schmitt visited his high school-aged girls in Austin, TX, and spent about an hour talking with the girls.
Morgan said he'll be tuned in to the rest of the games to see if Schmitt can add to her medal collection.
"It's pretty darn cool," Morgan said. "There's not many folks who do what she's done."