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  • Titletown trains the world
    Olympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte trained at the University of Florida in Gainesville. AP Photo by Mark J. Terrill

Sports and recreation

TitleTown USA trains the world!

The Gator Nation is justifiably famous for its athletic prowess, having won 23 NCAA championships and brought home 23 of the last 26 SEC All-Sports Trophies. The University of Florida is one of only two Division I FBS universities to win multiple national championships in each of the two most popular NCAA sports: football (1996, 2006, 2008) and men’s basketball (2006, 2007).


Residents of Gainesville are more than likely involved in some sport or fitness activity, contributing to our ranking as one of the top cities in America for health (WebMD).  There’s something for everybody, from baby swim classes, to rock climbing, to walking the stairs at the Devil’s Millhopper.  That’s right, you’re in Florida, so you have to walk down this giant sinkhole in order to climb back up—it’s a mountain in reverse!  Gainesville has several golf courses, public and private to choose from.  We have championship courses, offering exciting challenges in a pristine setting. Get out the bike!  Gainesville is a bicycle friendly city. We have an extensive trail network and 83 miles of roadways with bicycle lanes.


While football takes center stage in Gainesville, in Olympic years the public takes notice of the hundreds of athletes working toward a spot on the world stage. Over 150 Gator athletes from over thirty different countries have competed in the Games, winning 44 Olympic gold medals, 23 silver medals and 23 bronze medals through the 2008 Summer Olympics. If the Gator Nation were its own country, it would have tied for 18th place in the world for medals earned in the 2008 Olympic Games.

From INsite Magazine, Rachel Rakoczy writes:

It’s no surprise to hear that Peter Vanderkaay, 28, started swimming as a toddler. Or that he was competing by age 7. It is surprising to hear he wasn’t very good. “I think it’s safe to say most people used to beat me,” Peter says.

Now Peter is a three-time Olympic medalist (two gold in the 200-meter freestyle relay and one bronze in the 200-m freestyle) and is headed to his third Olympics. “If you would’ve told me that 15 years ago, I would’ve called you crazy,” he says.

Peter trained in Michigan for the last two Olympics and plans to return after the trials. Although he contemplated retirement after Beijing, Peter decided to train for the London Olympics. “There was just so much emotion surrounding ’08, I didn’t think I had it in me to go another four years,” he says.

To maintain focus, Peter wanted a change of scenery. That’s when he moved down to Gainesville. “The program is fantastic; the coaches are world-class,” he says. “Gainesville is a really unique, cool place.”

His favorite restaurants are The Top and Civilization—“You can drive by it and not even know it’s a restaurant, but it’s really good”—and, when not traveling for swimming, he likes to catch Gator football games. This season, he was able to make it to the Vanderbilt game. On his days off, he likes to be outdoors, preferably by the water. “I love the water, so I’ll always be near it,” he says.