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For Virginia swimmers, the Olympics are a dream come true

Three UVA swimmers (and a coach!) are representing the USA this summer

2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 6 Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Virginia swimming and diving head coach Todd DeSorbo had a big goal when he took over the Cavalier program back in 2017: to put five swimmers on the 2024 Olympic team. With three current Hoos and one future Hoo heading to Tokyo this summer, DeSorbo is well ahead of schedule. Fourth year Paige Madden earned a spot on the 4x200 relay with a third-place finish in the 200-meter race. First year Alex Walsh and second year Kate Douglass will both be racing in the 200-meter individual medley after the former out-touched the latter by .02 seconds in qualifiers. Incoming first year Emma Weyant will participate in the 400-meter individual medley in Tokyo. DeSorbo will also be in attendance as an assistant coach for the US swimming team.

“This is definitely what we’ve been working towards for four years or you know, since we’ve been here,” DeSorbo told media. “I didn’t necessarily expect us to be at this point, this quickly. It’s been it’s been extraordinary to say the least, and it’s been everything I could have hoped for and wished for and way more.”

Madden, Douglass, and Walsh were instrumental in Virginia’s first NCAA Championship in program history — and the first in ACC swimming history — back in March. While winning NCAA titles is definitely a major goal of DeSorbo and the Hoos, it’s not the only goal.

“Our main focus all year has been focused on the US Olympic trials, that’s our biggest priority,” DeSorbo said. “We want to be the most successful on the international stage. So everything we do in recruiting, training is centered around Olympic trials or World Championship trials, or putting people on the US National Team, year to year.”

This focus is what helped attract swimmers like Walsh to Charlottesville. “Most schools that I looked at in my junior year, I definitely wanted to make sure that I was doing long coursework, and I was getting prepared to be able to make the Olympic team or World Championship team,” Walsh said. “So yeah, that was just one of the reasons why I was drawn to Virginia.”

The 2019-20 season was canceled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, cutting short a promising start for Madden and the Hoos. It also pushed the Tokyo Olympics back one year, giving athletes more time to prepare for qualifications but limiting meet and competition experience to help get them ready.

For all of the Virginia swimmers, making the Olympics is achieving a life-long dream.

“I haven’t really been able to process it that much,” Walsh said with a smile. “People keep asking me like, ‘Oh, how does it feel to be an Olympian?’ and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m not really there yet.’ So, I still have to compete there.”

“it’s just crazy to think that like, I’ve always wondered what it’s like in the Olympic village and like meeting other athletes from other sports,” Douglass said of the entire experience. “I’ve always wondered what that’s like, and now I get to do that. It’s just crazy, and I’m so excited for that experience. I think just to be in the village and to get to know other athletes outside of swimming will be super cool.”

When asked who she’d like to meet, Douglass smiled and said, “To name a few, I guess, Simone Biles would be pretty cool to me. And maybe Megan Rapinoe. That’d be pretty cool.”

The swimming portion of the Olympics gets underway on July 24th and runs through the 31st.