swimmer Allison Schmitt competes in the women's 200m freestyle semifinals during the London 2012 Olympic Games (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)
LONDON -- Allison Schmitt's fist was in the air, celebrating a gold medal, before her competition finished the race.
That's how good the 22-year-old from Canton, Mich., was at the Aquatics Center in London's Olympic Park on Tuesday.
Schmitt smashed the Olympic record in the women's 200-meter freestyle, touching the wall in 1 minute, 53.61 seconds, more than a second faster than the previous best mark and almost two seconds ahead of France's Camille Muffat, who took silver in 1:55.58. Bronte Barratt of Australia grabbed gold in 1:55.81.
"I couldn't be happier right now," said Schmitt, who returns to school at the University of Georgia this fall after taking a year off to train for the Olympics. "Walking up, seeing the No. 1 next to me, and I had an amazing time."
Schmitt is making quick work of her competition in the pool -- and in the Olympic medal tally.
The gold was the third in three races for Schmitt, who won a silver medal and set an American record in the women's 400-meter freestyle Sunday and who won bronze -- and also set an American relay record -- with her teammates in the 4x200m freestyle relay Saturday.
For now she said she is keeping her hardware in a safe place at the Athletes Village: "They're somewhere in my room right now. A secret place. I kind of stashed them."
Schmitt has one more race -- and one more shot at a medal -- in the 4x200 meter freestyle relay Wednesday night.
Her teammates couldn't be happier about her success. "If you look at her on deck, that is who she is," said Kathleen Hersey, who swims the 200m butterfly. "She smiles all the time. She never has anything bad to say about anyone. She's always encouraging. Always positive. I could ramble on about how wonderful a person, just what a light, Allison is.
Schmitt bested Frederica Pellegrini's 1:54.82, the previous Olympic record set in Beijing, with her effort Tuesday. The secret to her success was as much about rest as it was anything else as the Olympics approached. She worked with coaches to find the right balance, so she would have enough left to make a big kick when she needed it.
The result? Schmitt pulled away from the 200m free field as the distance race unfolded. At the halfway point, she had an 0.85-second lead over the nearest swimmer. With just 50 meters to go, she'd pushed it to 1.57 seconds.
"At (U.S. Olympic) Trials I was a little heavy in the legs, and I could feel it coming home," Schmitt said. "And the strategy for today was to lay off the legs a little so I could come home stronger."
The five-time NCAA champion swimmer at Georgia redshirted this season (she has a year of eligibility remaining) to train at the North Baltimore Aquatic Clubunder Michael Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman.
"When I touched the wall, it all sank in," she said. "All the support that I've gotten throughout this whole week and throughout my whole career. And everyone out there, the coaches and my family who has supported me, I couldn't be happier right now."
Lauren Gustus writes for the Reno Gazette-Journal.