OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — This month dozens of swimmers hoping to make Team USA’s roster for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games are competing in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
“When you walk into the natatorium at the Olympic trials, it's like the air is thick,” Catherine Fox remembered. “There's so much tension, it's like you have to kind of move the tension aside. That phrase, you could cut it with a knife, that's real. It's quite an astounding level of pressure that's put on people”
Fox, a Roeland Park, Kansas, native, competed in the Olympic Swim Trials in 1996 and 2000, going on to make the national team in 1996 where she won two Olympic gold medals. She said often swimmers feel more pressure at trials than at the Olympic games.
“[Once] you've made the team, they say. ‘Now you're on the team, you've accomplished it, you've done it, you're going to the Olympics.’ And then you just go and enjoy the dance,” Fox said.
In the 25 years since Fox first competed at the Olympic Trials a lot has changed. She said US Swimming does a good job promoting and hyping the event to put the spotlight on the athletes.
The event is now held in an arena, with pyrotechnics, drums, a live broadcast, and much more fanfare. Fox pointed out the trials are now one month before the Olympic games. In 1996, she had about five months between trials and the Atlanta Games.
Even with all the changes, one thing is the same two decades later: swimmers have to block out distractions and focus on their race.
“You want to enter an Olympic trials feeling 100% on top of your game and 100% secure in who you are and feeling like it's just another day,” Fox said.
The US Olympic Swim Trials go from June 4 to June 20. A full schedule is available online.