By Angie Wang
Past, present and future Cardinal swimmers and divers claimed nine total spots to represent Team USA in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics based on their performance at the Swimming and Diving Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska and Indianapolis from June 18 through July 3.
From June 18 to June 26, divers competed in Indianapolis for a spot on Team USA. Following the Diving Trials through July 3, swimmers arrived in Omaha to earn a spot to swim at Rio. The top two spots in every event qualify for the Olympics, and the top four spots in select swimming events will be members of the relay team.
On day one of the meet, Stanford alum Maya DiRado ’14 earned a spot to Rio in the 400-meter IM. DiRado won the 400 IM event by over three seconds. She also won the 200-meter IM, leading the race from start to finish. She won the 200-meter backstroke as well in front of Missy Franklin, qualifying her for three events total at Rio.
Although it has been a tough few years leading up to the Trials for DiRado, her consistency allowed her to confidently swim at Trials.
“There were times those [tough] days where I was like, ‘I am not doing anything close to what I need to be doing to make the team or be at the times I need to hit, but you just have to go through those crappy days and learn something from it, and get better next week,’” DiRado said.
DiRado’s performances were surprising not only to the spectators, but also to herself.
“Yes, I surprised myself,” DiRado said. “You want to put yourself in the position where you will take advantage of those opportunities and so going into the race staying calm, staying focused, just trying to put together a good race. That [200-meter backstroke] was a really fun one, and a cool reflection of how great this year has been that I was able to do that.”
Kristian Ipsen ’15, another Stanford alum, won the men’s individual 3-meter springboard in Indianapolis, earning a spot to Rio. Ipsen also competed with synchro partner Troy Dumais in the 3-meter synchro event, but fell one spot short of qualifying. Previously, Ipsen won a bronze medal in the 3-meter synchronized dive in the London 2012 Olympics.
Ipsen recounted his experience and training since London, which has been filled with more intensive training that was more tailored for individual diving, rather than synchronized diving.
“Coming back from the [London] Olympics, I felt pretty burnt out,” Ipsen said. “In 2014, I took six months off. I started getting back into the swing of things in 2015, so it really has been this short amount of time that I’ve tried to build up to it. I’ve been really really intense with my training from 2015 on, and I feel like it’s really paid off.”
Ipsen’s dominance in the 3-meter event is reflected from his training. His reverse three-and-a-half dive secured his spot for Rio this year. In 2012, it was that exact dive that caused him to miss the Olympics. He attributes his consistency in this dive specifically, but also overall consistency in all 18 rounds at Trials, to more intensive training after 2012.
Current Cardinal diver Kassidy Cook qualified for the women’s 3-meter event. Her final score of 1,003.65 was 54.35 points ahead of second place. This will be Cook’s first Olympic games.
Cardinal swimmer Simone Manuel placed second in the 100-meter freestyle, which earned her an individual race in Rio as well as a spot on the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
Manuel, also a first time Olympian, described the excitement immediately following her victory.
“I didn’t process it quickly at all; it took about five minutes for it to settle in [after the race],” Manuel said. “Definitely when I saw that I had made the individual 100 free, I went down and saw Lia got fourth and would be in a relay with me; I just was super excited and shocked.”
Teammate Lia Neal ’17 placed fourth in the 100-meter freestyle. She will be heading to Rio for the 4×100-meter relay alongside Manuel.
Manuel and Neal made Olympic history as the first two African-American women to compete simultaneously on Team USA.
“Yes, it’s just cool to see the progress that black people have made in swimming,” Neal said. “Now in 2016, Simone and I are the first two African-American girls on the same Olympic team together, so it’s just cool to see the beginnings of what will hopefully be a trend.”
Incoming freshman Katie Ledecky ’20 also dominated her events. 19-year-old Ledecky qualified for her second Olympic games in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle. Ledecky won by eight seconds in the 400-meter freestyle, two seconds in the 200-meter freestyle and 10 seconds in the 800-meter freestyle.
Ledecky has been known as the “freestyle queen” and can swim a versatile range of distances. She will be swimming at Stanford in the upcoming year after deferring her enrollment for one year to train for the Olympic Trials.
Former Cardinal Geoffrey Cheah ’13 will represent Hong Kong in the 50-meter freestyle in Rio. He achieved the B-cut time, but since there were no swimmers that swam in the A-cut time, he is eligible for the Games.
David Nolan ’15 came in third place in the 200IM, just one place shy of qualifying. Abrahm DeVine ’19 dropped two seconds in his 200 IM, a 1.7 percent drop in time, and qualified for 200 IM finals with Nolan. Andrew Liang ’18 dropped one of the biggest times at Trials, cutting down more than one second in his preliminary time in the 100-meter fly, which is a 2.4 percent drop.
Ipsen concluded with the fact that he is representing Team USA again, as well as Stanford.
“Well, I’ll always represent Stanford for sure. It’s a combination, but I’m so excited,” he said. “Last time, when I got out there, when the Olympic rings were behind me and I was wearing the USA suit, I just never felt more patriotic, so I can’t wait to have that feeling again.”
Stanford will be represented by these nine athletes at the Rio 2016 Olympics, which will run from August 5 to 21.
Contact Angie Wang at 19awang ‘at’ castilleja ‘dot’ org.