‘Very intense preparation’: Central Va. swimmers head to U.S. Olympic Swim Trials

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:15 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Aspirations of becoming an Olympic athlete are hitting close to home for a group of young women who are now headed to the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.

On Sunday, June 13, Wave 2 of the U.S. Olympics Swim Trials kicks off in Omaha, Nebraska where the U.S. Olympic swim team will be determined over the course of eight days.

Today is the day. Grace, Josephine, and Zoe are heading off to Omaha! Maybe Townley will be there too. 😀Good Luck NOVA...

Posted by NOVA of Virginia Aquatics on Thursday, June 10, 2021

According to NBC Sports, the top two finishers per individual event, plus likely the top six in the 100m and 200m freestyles for relays, are in line to make up the roster.

In 2019, NBC12 caught up with Grace Sheble, Josephine Fuller and Zoe Dixon at NOVA of Virginia Aquatics shortly after they qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I get to race against other really fast people and I’m excited to see all these really famous people at the Olympic trials,” Fuller said at the time.

Now Fuller, Dixon and Sheble are headed out west to join some of the elite, including Rio Olympic gold medalist Townley Haas. While he is technically a pro now, Haas will be swimming under the NOVA cap at the trials.

“We’ll be hanging out with him, he’s a part of our group,” said NOVA Head Coach Norm Wright. “[We’re] looking forward to his support and encouragement for the first-time girls that are going out.”

Wright said it will certainly be a different atmosphere at the trials compared to what these swimmers are used to.

“The lights, the spectacle of it, it’s like the NBA finals - you walk out, they’re calling your name,” he said.

It is something Caroline Sheble and Claire Dafoe already experienced during Wave 1 last week.

“Very intense preparation, mentally, emotionally, but we’re here!” Wright said.

Here we go! Claire’s walk out from her 800 free last night! #onenova #OT2021 #walkinout

Posted by NOVA of Virginia Aquatics on Saturday, June 5, 2021

It has been a long-awaited moment after the Olympics were postponed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there are still safety measures in place at the guidance of the United States Olympic Committee and USA Swimming.

“They require a pre-travel COVID-19 test,” Wright said. “Then when you get on the ground there, before you’re allowed to do anything, you’re required to do an arrival COVID-19 test.”

Swimmers are also required to arrive three days before the competition even begins to be cleared to swim.

“It’s just a lot of extra steps that go along with not forgetting your suit and goggles,” Wright said. “Then once they’re there, we’re competing every day from the first day all the way through the last day of the meet.”

It is a journey that likely started with what many young kids do during the day at the NOVA facility in Henrico.

“The majority of our kids that come through the program that either go off [to a] Division I college, or with scholarships, or onto the Olympic trials and even the Olympics, have participated in our lessons program,” Wright said.

However, the practice does not stop when Sheble, Fuller and Dixon arrive in Omaha.

“These kids have to get up every morning for 10 days and recover every night and do it again and do it again,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, back in Henrico, photos of the Sheble sisters, Dixon, Dafoe, Fuller and Haas hang on the Olympic Trials Wall of Champions; potentially inspiring some of the youngest swimmers who see their faces on the wall.

“We never know who that next kid is going to be who’s in the water right now,” Wright said.

NBC12 will have primetime coverage of the trials on the following dates and times:

  • Thursday, June 17: Swimming trials 10 – 11 p.m.
  • Friday, June 18: Swimming & Track trials 9 – 11 p.m.
  • Saturday, June 19: Swimming & Track trials 9 – 11 p.m.
  • Sunday, June 20: Swimming & Track trials 8 – 11 p.m.

To watch the live streams of all the U.S. Olympic Swim trials, click here.

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