Olivia Smoliga was born to parents Tomasz and Elżbieta Smoliga, both of whom emigrated from Poland in 1991. She was born on October 12, 1994 in Glenview, Illinois. Growing up she swam on the Glenview Titan Aquatic Club. For high school Smoliga attended Glenbrook South High School and in her senior year, in November 2012, Smoliga broke the national high school records in the 100-yard backstroke (51.43) and the 50-yard freestyle (21.99) at the Illinois High School State Championships.
Smoliga committed herself to be a Georgia Bulldog under Head Coach Jack Bauerle for the 2013-2014 season. As a freshman, Smoliga had five 1st place finishes at the 2014 SEC Championships in the 200-yard medley relay (1:35.52-split 23.78), the 50-yard freestyle (21.54), the 200-yard freestyle relay (1:27.09-split 21.80), the 100-yard freestyle (47.51), and the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:11.29-split 47.77). Smoliga went on to the 2014 NCAA Championships where she won the NCAA title in the 50-yard freestyle with a 21.59.
In her sophomore year at Georgia, Smoliga performed as one of the team’s top sprinters. Smoliga once again qualified for the NCAA Championships, this time in the 50-yard free, the 100-yard free and the 100-yard back where she earned a second swim in every event. Smoliga made the championship final in both the 50 free and the 100 back — her best finish came in the 100 back, where she touched in fifth place overall with a 51.67. Smoliga took the title in the semi-final of the 100 free, and finished 8th in the championship final of the 50 free.
Smoliga reclaimed her 50-yard freestyle NCAA title in her junior year and added a few more medals along the way too. She broke the meet, pool and NCAA record to touch first in 21.21. She went on to complete the sprint double finishing 1st in the 100-yard freestyle in 46.70. Smoliga also picked up a bronze and silver in the 400 and 200-yard freestyle relays respectively. The bulldogs made the finals in both medley relays with Smoliga leading off on the backstroke leg. In her final individual race, 100-yard backstoke, she finished 1st in the B final. However, her time of 50.58 would have been enough to claim 2nd in the A final.
National and International Swimming
Just graduating high school, Smoliga already has plenty of experience on the national and international stage. In 2011 she attended the FINA Junior World Championships held in Lima, Peru. In Peru, Smoliga finished seventh in the 100-meter backstroke with a final time of 1:02.64, and fifth in the 50-meter backstroke with a final time of 29.20. Also in 2011, Smoliga competed at the At&T US Winter National Championships where she finished second in the 100-meter backstroke (1:00.58), right behind Missy Franklin.
In Summer of 2012, Smoliga qualified to compete for a spot on the US Olympic Team at the 2012 US Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. At trials, she finished 23rd in her 50-meter freestyle (25.66), and fourth in her 100-meter backstroke (1:00.46), right behind elite backstrokers Missy Franklin, Rachel Bootsma, and Natalie Coughlin. In the semi-finals, Smoliga went a 59.82, breaking the minute barrier for the first time ever. Several months later, Smoliga competed at the 2012 Junior Pan-Pacific Championships in Honolulu, Hawaii. Smoliga won gold in the 100-meter backstroke with a final time of 1:01.03, and silver in the 50-meter freestyle with a 25.39. Later that year in December 2012, Smoliga competed at the 2012 FINA SCM World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Smoliga placed second in the 50-meter backstroke (26.13), first in the 100-meter backstroke (56.64), and third in the 400-meter medley relay (3:51.43). Smoliga was also a prelim swimmer for the first-place 400-meter freestyle relay.
Smoliga qualified to compete at the 2013 World Championship Trials in Indianapolis, Indiana. At Indy, Smoliga placed ninth in the 50-meter backstroke in a 28.64. She also placed fifth in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 1:00.38. In addition to the backstrokes, she also qualified to race the 50-meter freestyle where she finished in the top-twenty.
Smoliga was named to her second US National Team as a member of the 2013-2014 US National Team. During her year on the national team Smoliga competed at the 2013 Duel in the Pool where she finished first in the 100-meter backstroke (57.06), third in the 100-meter freestyle (52.74), fourth in the 50-meter freestyle (24.41), second in the 400-medley relay (3:51.38-split 57.53), and second in the 400-freestyle relay (3:28.96-split 52.19).
At the 2014 Phillips 66 National meet, Smoliga finished third in the 50-meter backstroke (28.49) and fifth in the 100-meter backstroke (1:01.08). Based on her performances, Smoliga was selected for her third US National Team roster as one of the nations top 50 and100 backstrokers for 2014-2015.
2015 U.S. Nationals
At the 2015 U.S. National Championships, which were held in San Antonio, Texas, Smoliga qualified for the championship final in both the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter backstroke. Smoliga came close to breaking 25 seconds in the 50 free, but her swim put her in 7th place. In the 100 backstroke she finished fifth overall, just a second behind the event winner — in September 2015 she was also named to the 2015-2016 U.S. National Team in the event.
2015 Pan American Games
After breaking the meet record in the prelims, Smoliga went on to take silver in the 100-meter backstroke in Toronto in 1:00.06.
2016 US Olympic Trials
Smoliga became a first time Olympian by winning the 100M Backstroke with a time of 59.02, the 4th fastest time in the World this year.
2016 Rio Olympics
Smoliga finished sixth in the finals of the Women’s 100M backstroke just 1/2 of a second behind Gold Medal Winner, Katinka Hosszu. Smoliga was awarded a Gold Medal for the 4x100M Medley relay after the US Women won based on her swim in the preliminaries in the event.
-Originally developed by Elle Meinholz