Olympics-Swimming-Schmitt laughs to a full set of medals

LONDON, July 31 Tue Jul 31, 2012 6:59pm EDT

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LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - Allison Schmitt shared a joke with Michael Phelps before her 200 metres freestyle final on Tuesday and she was still laughing afterwards.

The bubbly American fizzed with energy in the pool and was still pretty lively out of it after completing a set of Olympic swimming medals with a gold medal to go with the silver and bronze she had already won.

The medals added to a bronze from Beijing four years ago and came on a record-breaking night for friend and training partner Phelps whose personal collection now stands at an unprecedented 19 after he anchored the 4x200 freestyle relay team to gold.

"I just tried to keep focused and keep calm," she told reporters, when asked about her strategy. "Mike and I were joking before the race that he said as soon as you get on the blocks it's time to start focusing."

In the U.S. trials 'Schmitty', who has been rooming at the Olympic Village with 400 metre individual medley silver medallist Elizabeth Beisel, had left the blocks like a bullet and had felt it in her legs.

On Tuesday, she decided to lay off the legs a little at the start and leave enough in reserve for a strong kick for home.

In reality, she set another blistering pace to win in one minute, 53.61 seconds.

Frenchwoman Camille Muffat, who beat Schmitt in the 400 final on Sunday, was second in 1:55.58 with Australian Bronte Barratt taking the bronze.

"It still hasn't sunk in and I couldn't be happier bringing home hardware to the U.S., let alone a gold medal," Schmitt declared afterwards.

Known as an ever cheerful presence on the team, a swimmer with a ready laugh who describes herself on her Twitter page as a "professional waver with a permanent smile...always up for a high five", Schmitt said success would not change her.

"I am still the same person walking out of here with the gold medal as walking out of here in eighth place," she said.

"I'm still the exact same person and I'm excited to go back to school after being away for a year.

"I'm excited to be back home, I'm going straight back to Michigan after this. I haven't been home in a while." (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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