(SAVANNAH) A Chatham County native will soon realize a lifelong dream of an appearance in the Olympics, but 34 year old Joe Witt is not traveling to the 2016 games as a competitor, he’s going to Rio as a coach. Witt has been working with young swimmers on the Savannah Swim Team in the Chatham County Aquatic Center for years. But when an international student from Savannah State University moved here about a year ago, it put Witt on the path to see his Olympic dreams come true.
Witt’s love of swimming led him into coaching 15 years ago, but his love of the sport actually began in the first grade. “:When I started swimming, I was six years old at the Habersham YMCA and I started year round with the Savannah Swim Team, which I’m now coach, in 1989.” said Witt. He says the Olympic games is the zenith in the world of competitive swimming, so even though his protege’ is not competing on Team U.S.A., he’s thrilled to be coaching 20 year old Thierry Sawadogo, who will represent the African nation of Burkina Faso. “” I was born and raised here and you know, in this sport, the pinnacle is the Olympic Games, so to finally be able to get to that point as a coach is really exciting… and it’s hard to put into words.” Witt said.
Sawadogo says his choice of school, Savannah State University, is a decision that’s paying dividends outside the classroom and in the pool. He says teaming up with Coach Witt is providence. “: “My coach, Joe Witt, helps me alot… he teach me alot things about swimming, so I, I, think I’m lucky to be here with him.” said Sawadogo. Witt says Sawadogo is making the best kind of impression on his teammates on Savannah’s Swim Team, as they can see by example that Olympic aspirations are achievable. “” It inspires one after another and as soon as one makes it, the next one makes it and it’s kind of a trickle down effect and he’s really been kind of a catalyst for that. We’ve had some great break out swims in the past few months and I believe a lot of it has to do with seeing him compete internationally and seeing, hey, he’s in here doing what we’re doing, it worked for him, it’s got to work for me.” Witt said. The pair is set to fly from Savannah to Brazil for the start of the 2016 Olympic Games July 26. The games are set to begin August 5th.