As you might expect, the US Olympic Team Trials is a swim meet unlike any other in our sport. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and the hardest (but most important) part of the experience is managing those emotions. While I tried to play it cool, I admittedly had more thoughts of fear and anxiety than excitement and joy. I love swim meets… I love racing and competing; feeling anxious and apprehensive was new, strange, and quite unwelcome. I’m lucky I have great coaches, teammates, family, and friends who all helped keep me calm and sane throughout the process.
For those of you who don’t know, each event at the meet (excluding some of the longer races) is swum three times over two days. Every qualifier swims prelims; the top 16 continue to semi-finals; and the top 8 to the final. I made it through prelims and semi-finals on pure excitement and energy… swimming in front of 12,000 people is crazy! But, heading into the final, I felt vulnerable, knowing that I could potentially have the best swim of my life and still not make the team. Though I was so nervous and scared, I tired to appreciate every moment. When am I going to be in a situation like that again? Regardless of the outcome, what an incredible life experience!! Once again the sport of swimming has given me a gift I could never get elsewhere.
The second I hit the wall and saw 2nd place by my name I felt overwhelming joy combined with overwhelming relief. I did it. I was going to the Olympics. My lifelong dream was now a reality. How do I put that feeling into words? I cant. I can only express gratitude to all the people who played any role (small or large) in my journey. I would not be here if it were not for all of you!!
Although I made the team on the third day of the meet, I wasn’t able to step off that emotional roller coaster just yet. I have met some of my best friends through this sport; I’ve formed incredible relationships with even better people. You better believe that I swam each of their races with them. I experienced their joy when I watched them make the team, and I felt their heartbreak when I watched them just miss it. It was a lesson we have all heard many times made evident and very real… This sport is about so much more than the swimming and the times you go; it’s about the people you meet and lasting relationships you form along the way. That is what’s special, that is what’s important, and that is what’s real.
I am humbled and honored to get to represent the USA at the Olympics. To me, the Olympics is a festival of peace, an revered tradition where the world comes together to accomplish something as a whole while simultaneously celebrating differences. I cannot think of any other event that holds cultural significance in every country in the world. The blanket of the Olympics, like some sort of magic, transcends boundaries and differences, it rises above negativity and hatred, and it is truly beautiful. What an incredible thing to be a tiny piece of thread in that magical blanket.