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2015 Today’s Top 10: Shannon Vreeland

The swimmer won Olympic gold before she earned her degree

To Olympic gold medalist Shannon Vreeland, swimming is a team sport in which partners in the pool inspire her to perform better.

“I’m a lot faster in relays than individual events,” Vreeland said. “Swimming with all those talented people gives you the extra bit of confidence you need at the international level. You know you can meet expectations because you’ve already gotten in the water with them each day.”

Shannon’s first performance in the pool gave little indication how successful she would be years later at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she captured gold in the 800 freestyle relay. She tried, and failed, to do the breaststroke in her first career race, but she wouldn’t grow accustomed to losing. By fifth grade, Vreeland’s mission was to become an Olympic swimmer.

As a student-athlete at the University of Georgia, Vreeland was able to handle a schedule packed with swim practices and volunteer opportunities with the Palladia Women’s Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, Georgia’s student-athlete advisory committee and student government. Whether reading books to schoolchildren on Dr. Seuss Day or serving hot cocoa to Safe Route to Schools participants, Vreeland looked forward to being a positive female role model.

“When I was that age, there was an Olympian from my club team – Catherine Fox – who came to speak to us to share her story. I thought after I heard her speak that if she could do it, then I could do it,” Vreeland said. “I like to talk to little kids and encourage them like she encouraged me.”

Vreeland graduated from Georgia in 2014 with degrees in international affairs and economics. Today, she spends her time studying for the LSAT and training for her next competition by swimming up to 8,000 meters a day. She’s not ready to make a decision about the type of law she’d like to practice, but she knows that athletics will play a large role in her future. And that Olympic gold medal – where does she keep it?

“It’s back in Kansas, with my parents,” she laughed. “I’d like to do more clinics with kids, so I might need it then.”