Olympic silver medalist coaches swimming

By Catherine Wang

Olympic silver medalist Allison Wagner joined the girls’ swim team as an assistant coach last month. Wagner was a member of the 1996 Olympic swimming team in Atlanta, Georgia. She won the silver medal in the 400 individual medley.

Wagner began swimming when she was seven after failing in other sports.

“I hid under the piano during ballet class, was more fascinated with drawing in the lines on the soccer field than the game itself and was booed off the field in softball,” Wagner said. “My parents took me to a ‘learn-to-swim’ clinic and I went through all eight levels in one hour. By the end of the session I was swimming with boys twice my age, so my parents decided it was a good fit.”

Wagner won her first national championship when she was 15.

At the 1993 Short Course World Championships, Wagner won a gold medal and set the world record in the 200 individual medley. Her world record stood for 14 years and was not broken until last year.

In 1994, Wagner was named Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World magazine. She attended the University of Florida and won an NCAA championship. In 1996, Wagner made the Olympic team in the 400 medley and won a silver medal.

“It felt so honorable to swim at the Olympics for my country,” Wagner said, “It was unbelievable to be on ‘home turf’ and to be one of the first American athletes to compete and hear tens of thousands of people chanting my name.”

Wagner moved to Los Angeles and joined Harvard-Westlake three months ago after living in San Francisco for five years, where she was a swim instructor at the University of San Francisco’s Koret Aquatic Center.