Bobby Pope

Former Olympian remains active in swimming

Angel Martino, now known as Angel McGuire, swims in her 50-foot Speedo training pool in Milledgeville in 2000.
Angel Martino, now known as Angel McGuire, swims in her 50-foot Speedo training pool in Milledgeville in 2000.

Swimming will be one of the sports at the forefront of the Summer Olympics, which begin Friday in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.

Angel Myers Martino (now known as Angel McGuire after a divorce and remarriage) knows what the competitors are about to go through because she has been there and has six Olympic medals (three gold and three bronze), to show for it. Swimming was in her genes as her father, the late Kirt Myers, competed in the sport at Alabama. Angel has spent the majority of her life in Middle Georgia, growing up in Americus and living in Milledgeville for almost the past two decades.

She attended college at Furman, where she won seven NCAA championships and was a nine-time All American, while swimming for the Paladins.

She was on the 1992 U.S. Olympic swim team that competed in Barcelona, as well as the 1996 team in Atlanta when she was the captain of the women’s squad. She missed out being a member of 1988 team after she tested positive for steroids, but she says the positive test came as a result of her use of birth control pills which, unknowing to her, contained the banned substance. She was suspended for 16 months.

In Barcelona, she was part of a world record time and took home a gold medal in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay and bronze in the 50-meter freestyle. In 1996, she was again on the gold medal-winning 4x100 freestyle team, as well as the 4x100 medley unit, and she won bronze in the 100 butterfly and the 100 freestyle.

By winning the gold medal in 1996, she became the oldest American swimmer (age 29) to ever win a gold. Martino was the first American women to break the 55-second barrier in the 100 freestyle, and she was the world record holder in the 100 backstroke from 1993 until 2001. She has won enough gold during her career to swell the vaults at Fort Knox.

Columbus physician Dr. William Roundtree, who is also a physician with the U.S. Olympic team, talks about the intensity and vulnerability of the elite athlete.

In addition to her Olympic medals, she won six gold medals in the Pan Pacific Games, seven in the Goodwill Games and four in the Pan-Am Games. You can add to those totals numerous other silver and bronze medals won while competing around the world.

Since retiring at the age 33 from competitive swimming, she has spent time raising her two boys: Michael and Mark Martino. She found a new career as a swimming coach when she started coaching her boys youth swim teams.

Today, she coaches swimmers from ages 5-70-plus through the Reynolds Rapids Youth Swim team, swimmers from John Milledge and Gatewood, and her two master swim classes at Reynolds Lake Oconee Lake Club. She also finds the time to be a full-time Wellness Specialist at the Lake Club.

During the past 20 years, she has been reminded of her competitive swimming achievements through her induction in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (2001) and Georgia Aquatic Hall of Fame (2014). While she enjoyed competitive swimming, she prefers a more quiet life now taking care of her family and swim teams.

Even though she no longer competes, I would bet she will be watching the swimming competition at this year’s Olympic Games with activity beginning in the pool Saturday.

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