Jack Bauerle beaming about Bulldogs’ strong showing in Olympics

ATHENS — Jack Bauerle was boogie-boarding on Folly Beach in South Carolina on Monday. So, any notion that Georgia’s legendary swim coach is ready to paddle off into the sunset might’ve been lost with his last 180 shred of the Atlantic Ocean’s early-afternoon chop.

Of course, what happened on the other side of the Pacific Ocean the last 17 days has him buzzing, too. The 69-year-old Bauerle was riding high after another strong showing by his contingent at the Tokyo Olympics. That included his presence for another stint as a coach for the U.S. team.

It was the sixth time Bauerle has served either as a head coach, assistant coach or a personal coach during an Olympic Games. But he said might’ve been the most emotional of his Olympic experiences.

It peaked for Bauerle when Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland went 1-2 in the 400-meter individual medley.

“I was not prepared for the feeling that overcame me,” said Bauerle, speaking by phone from his weeklong recuperation at the beach. “Two of our guys, a gold and a silver, same event, same team. The two to three hours after that, I literally don’t remember a thing. It’s a like a dead period in my life. It’s amazing, a dream come true for them, which turns into a dream come true for a coach.”

Kalisz and Litherland were among 27 Georgia athletes to compete in this year’s Olympics. Many of them made their presence known in Tokyo as the Bulldogs brought home 11 medals, including three golds.

Kalisz’s gold was the first won by a UGA male swimmer. In addition, Georgia track athletes Shaunae Miller-Uibo (400-meter run) and Lynna Irby (4x400-meter relay run) struck gold in Tokyo. Irby also won a bronze in a relay race.

Also earning medals from Georgia were swimmer Allison Schmitt (2: silver 800-meter freestyle relay, bronze 400-meter freestyle relay); swimmer Hali Flickinger (2: bronze 200-meter butterfly, 400-meter IM); swimmer Olivia Smoliga (bronze 400-meter freestyle relay); and in track, senior Elija Godwin won a bronze as a member of the U.S. mixed 4x400-meter team.

Credit: Matthias Schrader

Credit: Matthias Schrader

Both the Bulldogs and the SEC had fun with their athletes’ success in this year’s Olympics. Athletes from SEC teams racked up 81 medals during the games. Counting multiple entries and relays, the SEC crowed via Twitter that it would’ve ranked third as a country. Likewise, if UGA proclaimed it would have tied with Czech Republic and Denmark for No. 23 in the medal count for countries. The U.S. topped all nations this year with 113 overall and 39 gold medals.

Georgia additionally had representatives in the Olympics in women’s tennis, women’s diving and men’s golf. In all, UGA athletes represented 12 nations in the 2020 Games. A couple of UGA administrators also were in Tokyo.

The 2024 Olympics will take place in Paris, France. As for whether Bauerle will add a seventh Olympics appearance to his belt remains to be seen. He could, of course, retire any moment he wants.

“Paris is my favorite city in the world outside of Athens; I have to say that,” said Bauerle, whose swimming travails have taken him to 31 countries in his lifetime. “It’s my favorite big city in the world. And one of my former swimmers, Sebastien Rouault, an NCAA champion, is on France’s Olympic committee. So, either way, I’ve got a ticket.”