Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 7/30/12
No one would ever confuse London for Tuscaloosa. But for SEC fans, these Olympic Games look a lot like old home week. On Day Three of the Games alone, Florida swimming star Ryan Lochte finished fourth in the 200 meter freestyle, while his fellow Gator, Gemma Spofforth, finish fifth in the women's 100 meter breaststroke wearing the colors of her native Great Britain. Another Gator, Marcin Cieslak, who hails from Poland, finished sixth in the qualifying heat for the men's 200 meter butterfly, while Georgia's Allison Schmitt advanced to Tuesday afternoon's finals of the women's 200 meter freestyle. And that's just in the pool. Overall, there are 173 current and former SEC athletes and coaches competing in London, the most of any conference by a wide margin. Some, like Florida running back Jeff Demps and Georgia tennis star John Isner, are well known. Others like Auburn trap shooter Glenn Eller aren't likely to be any more famous when they return from these Olympics than they are now. This should not come as a giant surprise. The conference has reeled off 89 national championships in the last dozen years in sports ranging from football to women's gymnastics to equestrian. The fact that the SEC has the lion's share of athletes and coaches in the Games should be expected. The surprise is the wide range of countries those SEC athletes represent. Auburn, for example, has 19 current and former sports stars completing. Only two, swimmers Tyler McGill and Micah Lawrence, are on Team USA. Swimmer Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace is an Auburn Tiger, but she is in London competing for her native Bahamas. On that front, Vanderpool-Wallace is far from alone. High jumper Donna Thomas, triple-jump and 100-meter hurtle cousins Leevan and Shamar Sands, 4 x 400 runner Avard Moncur, and 100 meter sprinter Sheniqua Ferguson will all give you a loud and proud "War Eagle," while waving the Bahamian flag. Even the head coach of the Bahamas swim team, Brett Hawke, hails from Auburn. In total, SEC athletes are competing for 42 different countries ranging from Iceland (Sarah Bateman, swimmer, Florida) to Kuwait (Yousef Alaskari, swimming, Georgia). Team Kazakhstan even boasts an athlete from the conference (Vlad Polyakov, swimming, Alabama). The conclusion from all of this is pretty easy to draw. The SEC doesn't necessarily produce the best athletes: it attracts them. And as long as the league continues winning championships, kids from all points on the globe will continue to find their way to winningest conference in the land.
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