It is always an honor to compete for your country. Last week I was blessed with the opportunity to represent the USA at the Pan American Games. After some hectic travel – delayed flights and lost luggage – we finally arrived in Toronto where we were whisked away to team processing to receive the official Nike apparel. Although tired and hungry, it was so exciting to walk into the village that evening and just in time for the first team meeting. This is the first time that I have ever staid in an athletic village, but I did not have enough energy to walk around and explore. Instead I went straight to the dining hall to get dinner and then up to my room to sleep.
We had four full days in Toronto before the meet began, which gave us a chance to acclimate to the new surroundings and also bond as a team. We were not able to be in the competition pool until Sunday, two days before the meet, but were able to train in a 51 meter outdoor pool. Tan swimmers are fast swimmers. Moreover, it was nice to just be away from everything and swim outside.
Friday night I participated in the Opening Ceremony of the Games. Although I swam the first day of the meet, I wanted a chance to participate in this event, especially because at the Olympics the meet starts the following morning meaning I will not have another opportunity to walk out with my country. We were on our feet for a while, but it was more than worth it when we emerged onto the field to the roar of all of the fans. I have never felt so much love and support in a single instance. This must be a fracción of how celebrities like Beyoncé feel while performing. Sorry there are not any photos I was too busy absorbing all of the positive energy.
As the meet grew closer, we resembled a seasoned unified team. It is amazing how quickly we could form such a close bond, which I fully attribute to our phenomenal coaching staff and captains. I would have preferred to have swum on the second or third day of the meet; however, the 200 butterfly was the second event of the first day. With confidence I swam my prelim race in a personal best time and was seeded first.
I was excited for the final race that night knowing that I was next to a Canadian who has proven her excellence internationally in this event over the last few years. However, I was not really thinking about her as I climbed onto the blocks. Instead, I knew that I had a proven race plan and was ready to perform. It was a close race through the 150, but she pulled away on the last 50 and I was able to capture the silver medal. I did not want to go slower at night, but came away with a major lesson, which will help propel me to the next level. Seeing my flag raised with the other champions is by far my favorite memory from the games. Next time I will capture the honor to hear the anthem as well!
The following day I did not have an individual race and spent the day recovering from the previous day’s race and preparing for the 400 IM the following morning. In my prelims race of the 400 IM I dropped 3 seconds and made it back into finals. I was really excited for the night swim to see how fast I could go. I made a few key adjustments and finished fourth overall. Although I missed the podium, I am very proud of this swim. I am even more excited about the gains in each of the strokes that we have made this past year and cannot wait to see how this event progresses.
There were a few more days left in the meet when I finished and was fortunate enough to spend them cheering for my teammates. I know that their energy and support helped ease my nerves throughout my races, and it was a pleasure to repay the favor. I am so proud of the way that everyone raced and cannot wait to see what the future holds.
It was so amazing to share this experience with my family who made the trip to Toronto. I could not ask for a better first international team trip than this one. Thank you to all of my coaches and teammates at Real Canoe and SwimMAC who helped prepare me mentally and physically for the meet. I am looking forward to another fabulous year of memories and challenges with all of you!!