One of the most pressure-packed sporting events in the world begins Sunday. The U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming is a crucible like few others in athletics, with lifetime hopes and dreams fulfilled or dashed by hundredths of seconds.
In no other country is the competition as fierce for two spots in each event, and nobody else stages its swim trials in a 17,000-seat basketball arena. It is a test that can fry even the strongest of minds. “One of the worst days of my life is the day I made the Olympic team,” says Maya DiRado, who would go on to win four medals in Rio de Janeiro (two of them gold) after enduring the nerves that beset her in Omaha.
DiRado, a whip-smart Stanford graduate, was favored to win the 400-meter individual medley on the first day of trials in 2016. Racing through that burden was nearly crippling. “The pure terror and stress I felt until 7 p.m., when I flipped at 350 [meters] and was pretty sure I was going to make the Olympic team, was horrible,” she says. “It’s the most intense swim meet anyone will ever go to. But there is a benefit to Team USA. We walked into Rio and it was easy.”
Read more (via Sports Illustrated)