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Fort Wayne Sports History: Vogel wins Olympic gold medals

Matt Vogel waves to fans during a ceremony and downtown parade honoring his two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. The Snider High School grad also was given the key to the city. The photograph was taken July 28, 1976.

Local swimmer thrives in return to sport after hiatus

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 - 4:09 am

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of excepts from the book ``Fort Wayne Sports History.

July 21, 1976

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 then moved to California to begin coaching a club program in Visalia. Eventually, he came back to Fort Wayne to take over the Fort Wayne Aquatics swim team as head coach.

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.''

Book signing at library

The Allen County Public Library's main downtown branch will host a book signing for Blake Sebring's ``Fort Wayne Sports History'' from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday. The books will be for sale, and some people written about in the book will be in attendance.

For more information on the book "Fort Wayne Sports History'' written by News-Sentinel sports reporter Blake Sebring visit www.amauth.com or www.blakesebring.com.