Olympic Trials Experience

2008 Olympic Trials

Omaha Nebraska

 By Liz Halet


Imagine a jam-packed, double-decker stadium of 13,770 screaming fans—all draped in the red, white and blue from head to toe.  Now picture a light show to rival that of an Aerosmith concert coupled with blaring music, flame-throwers, and a huge, 360-degree video screen counsel hanging from the center ceiling to capture all the action.  All of this you probably saw on the telecast of this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, but I also wanted to share a few “behind-the-scenes” details with you: my fellow Great Wolf teammates.

Now before I can touch on one of the coolest and most exciting experiences of my swimming career thus far, it would only be appropriate to speak of how I got to the Olympic Trials.  As my coach always tells me, “the journey to any destination worth going is the best part.” 

First off, I wasn’t always a swimmer.  Growing up I was very involved in traveling soccer and only did swimming a few times a week.  I never passed swimming lessons.  Once I reached a certain age, I knew I had to pick one or the other if I really wanted to be successful.  Both Coach Dave and Coach Chip really encouraged me to focus on swimming and told me that if I put in the hard work, it would all pay off eventually.  They also always told me to set big goals for myself—and I wanted to be a DI college swimmer and swim at nationals.  

Swimming at Wolf taught me a lot of things that eventually led me to earn a full combination (academic/athletic) scholarship at the University of Louisville.  Besides learning the value of hard work and dedication, I had the opportunity to experience first-hand the power of teamwork, goal-setting, staying healthy and also effective time-management skills.  What can I say? Swimming is the gift that keeps on giving!!  I know I can use all the skills that were instilled in me at Wolf in college and beyond.

Now swimming can also teach you a lot about adversity.  It isn’t a sport that shows you the fruits of your labor right away—you have to train for months in the hope that it all pulls together and sometimes that can’t happen in just one season.  You have to work at it and focus on the eventual goal.  My freshman season I suffered numerous setbacks (a dislocated shoulder and a broken rib) that put me out for much of the season.  Having a disappointing first collegiate season made me appreciate being able to swim and be part of a team so much more.  While qualifying for the Olympic Trials was never really a conscious goal of mine, I knew I wanted to see how fast I could possibly go…and I was willing to see where that kind of mentality would take me.

I qualified for the Olympic Trials during my last race, at the last qualification meet.  I guess I like to be dramatic? (Haha)  Two weeks later I was back in Omaha—and still in shock that I had made it that far.  It was such an honor to be competing against some of the best swimmers in the world.  I have been to other national and international meets before, but the level of excitement and electricity in the air at the Trials is something I will never forget and can’t be compared.  Whether it was striking up a conversation with Katie Hoff in the cool-down pool or getting run-over during warmups by Ryan Lochte (numerous times…sorry, Ryan!)  It was an experience of a lifetime and it got me even more fired-up for training and…who knows…maybe 2012?

In closing, I hope you are able to attain whatever level of swimming you have set in your sights.  Place trust your coaches and the program, enjoy all those moments with your teammates, set goals,  and have fun with this wonderful sport of swimming—because this sport can take you places you never thought you’d go and introduce you to people you never thought you’d meet. Keep working hard, Wolves, and I hope one day you will get to take part in the U.S. Olympic Trials experience (and beyond), too!

Rock on, my Wolf friends…rock on.