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Young US Swimmers Grew Into Olympians During Shutdown

Women's squad bound for Tokyo includes 10 teenagers
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 21, 2021 4:52 PM CDT

(Newser) – No one knew what the makeup of the US Olympic swim team would look like on the other side of the pandemic. The answer became clear over the weekend at the trials in Omaha. It's young: 10 members of the women's team are teenagers, replacing veterans of past Olympics, the Wall Street Journal reports. "The team is so young I'm going to have to learn everyone's name," says men's team veteran Caeleb Dressel. This time, 30 swimmers from the 2016 team tried to make the 2021 team, and half fell short, per the New York Times. Nathan Adrian, 32, who has five gold medals, was one of them. "I'm not ready for a team without Nathan," Dressel says, per Sports Illustrated. He also found it painful to see Ryan Lochte fail to make what would have been his fifth Olympic team; Lochte finished sixth in the men's 200 individual medley in the trials.

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Of the 26 women on the roster, one is 15 years old, two are 16, one is 17, two are 18, and four are 19. Most of them have not gone away to college, and some have never taken a swim trip without their parents. Only local fans are allowed at the games, so swimmers won't see their families for more than a month. They'll be led by Katie Ledecky, who will be a three-time Olympian. "I hope us older swimmers can show them the ropes and create that family environment," she said. The pandemic stretched the period between Olympics to five years and meant there were fewer chances to compete. "The kids were dying to race," one coach said. The change seemed to work to the advantage of the young swimmers, who were trying to improve while older ones were trying to maintain their level, per the Journal. "I had a whole other year to get bigger, faster, and stronger," said Claire Curzan, 16. (Read more 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games stories.)

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