Irmo High School alum and Olympic gold medalist makes splash in return home
IRMO, SC - In advance of last week’s state championship swim meet, the Irmo High School swim team was paid an inspirational visit by someone who is no stranger to success. Irmo High School alum Courtney Shealy Hart is a two-time gold medalist, winning the 400-meter medley relay and 400-meter freestyle relay at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
During her visit, Hart shared her experiences swimming in high school then moving on to swim at the collegiate level at the University of Georgia before becoming a gold medalist. She described how setting goals for herself was the key to her success and recommended the team do it also. “I wrote my goals down and put them on the wall in my bathroom,” Hart told the team. “And every morning when I got up and brushed my teeth, they were right there in front of me to push me each day.”
Hart described the importance of never giving up despite struggles that may arise. “When I was actually still swimming at Irmo High, I had the opportunity to try out for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta,” Hart said. “Unfortunately, I came up just short and from there, I could have quit and focused on other things, but I decided to get back in the pool and train even harder. Had I not done that, I wouldn’t be standing before you today as a two-time gold medalist.”
“To hear her speak on her experiences gives me so much motivation to push myself each and every day,” Irmo High School senior Elizabeth Mahoney said. “It is really neat to have a figure like her to look up to. She was where we are now. It proves that we can achieve the goals we set if we work hard.”
Hart has served as the head coach of the swimming and diving program at Georgia Tech now for eight years. She is just one of three women that is the head coach of a men’s and women’s team at the collegiate level. She has steadily built the Yellow Jackets into a program that can compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). In 2013, Hart was inducted into the Georgia Aquatic Hall of Fame.
“It is important for our students to understand that being a graduate of Irmo High School, they can do anything they want and be anything they want,” Irmo High School principal David Riegel said. “Courtney was just like them when she was in school and it is really amazing for them to see the direction their lives can go.”