NO. 12

Volunteer victor

During an up-and-down career, Matt Vogel captured a pair of Olympic swimming gold medals at the 1976 Summer Games.

When Matt Vogel swam for gold medals in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, he was one of the first swimmers to shave his head before a competition. Vogel believed that the smooth, slippery feel gave him a psychological and physical advantage.

The advantage was enough as Vogel won gold medals in the 100-meter butterfly and the 400 medley relay. He then returned to the University of Tennessee for his sophomore season, but his remaining career could never live up to his expectations. So he quit several times and didn't return to Tennessee in the fall of '77. He worked several months on the graveyard shift at Scott's Food Store on Decatur Road.

Once while stocking shelves at 3 a.m., he decided he wanted to swim again, and he went back to Tennessee. That year the Volunteers won the national title as Vogel finished fourth in the 100 butterfly. Eventually, Vogel finished his eligibility but dropped out of school before graduating in 1980 to begin a coaching career in Maryville, Tenn.

He coached there five years before joining a club in Oak Ridge, Tenn. After 10 more years of coaching, he retired to buy a lawn-care service. The work was extremely difficult, and he recently moved to California to begin coaching a club program in Visalia.

Vogel says he is still unable to put into perspective what it means to him to have won two gold medals, which his mother keeps for him in Fort Wayne.

"I don't think I'll be able to really fully access that until I can sit down and not have to worry about where my next paycheck is coming (from)," he said. "I was grateful to have the opportunity."

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