It is rare for someone who has attained a great individual achievement to voluntarily give up a treasured reminder of the occasion, but Allan Gutierrez '15, in a gesture of gratitude to his alma mater, did just that recently. Gutierrez, Florida Southern's first Olympic athlete, donated medallions commemorating his participation in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games to the College.
A native of Honduras, Gutierrez was a member of the Mocs men's swimming team. He was chosen by the Honduran national Olympic committee to represent his country in the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. He swam in the preliminary heats in the 400-meter freestyle in London and the 100-meter butterfly in Rio.
While visiting the College in August, he presented the small commemorative medallions, given to all athletes as a memento of their participation in the Games, to President Anne Kerr.
"If it wasn't for the College, I wouldn't have been at either Olympics. By coming here, I received all the training I needed to qualify. I decided I wanted to give something back to the school," Gutierrez said.
During his career, Gutierrez earned 20 All-American certificates—eight in individual events—and helped the team achieve four top-five finishes at the NCAA Division II National Championships, including second place in 2013 and 2014. He was a member of relay teams at various distances that won two gold, two silver, and two bronze medals at the national championships. In his senior year, he was team captain.
"He was a great fit for us," said Mike Blum, who coached Gutierrez as the team's assistant coach under Duncan Sherrard and then as head coach. "He developed a lot during those four years because of his hard work and attention to detail."
Blum said he was not surprised by Gutierrez's magnanimity in donating the medallions.
"He has always been just a nice guy. He was a leader for our team," he said.
Gutierrez recalled that his experiences at the two Olympics were quite different. In 2012, a misunderstanding placed him in the 400-meter freestyle, which was not the event he had trained for. The venue was packed with thousands of fans and hundreds of media personnel with cameras, and Gutierrez felt distracted. In Rio, he knew what to expect, and he was entered in his best event, so he was more at ease.
After his part in the 2016 Games was over, he spent time in the city with his FSC teammate Edson Lima '16, who is a native of Rio.
"It was nice. Rio is similar to my hometown, San Pedro Sula, only way bigger. It was great having someone who knew the city," he said.
Gutierrez, who earned his degree in biology, has returned to the United States and plans to enter graduate school and work in the medical field. He said it is unlikely he will try to compete in the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
He hopes the medallions will serve as a token of his gratitude to FSC.
"It's a way of thanking the school for giving me a chance to achieve things I wouldn't have anywhere else," he said.
The above story was written by Cary McMullen, Publications Editor for Florida Southern College