Since the end of Trials, people have asked me how it was. The one word answer that always comes out first is “long”.
Olympic Trials was a grind, a very fitting forum to display the sport we pour so much into. Even as media, it took a lot out of me physically; the hours were long, and if I wanted to get enough sleep I had to heavily limit my leisurely activities. However, emotionally I feel I was able to stay pretty steady for the most part. I can’t imagine for the life of me that any athlete competing in this meet would share the same outlook.
From what I saw and heard, and what I was able to capture, this meet caused more pressure, nerves, and stress than any other competition that most, if not all, had been through. The tension at Trials was palpable. When a heat stepped up on the blocks, you could feel the emotional energy that the athletes were about to put into that race. And upon reflection, what other reaction would there be to something that these competitors had dedicated so much to?
The Olympics are the pinnacle of our sport, and therefore being on an Olympic team is the greatest achievement you can make as a U.S. athlete. It’s what we work countless hours for, it’s what everyone at Trials has willingly given their blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul to earn the chance to try to accomplish. Therefore, when they finally get to Trials, there comes a realization that this is the moment they have been working for for 4, in some cases 8, in some cases more, years to make a reality. And there’s always that chance that one slip up will cause you to fall just short, in spite of all your training.
So it makes sense. The pressure to perform, the nerves of giving the best performance you can, and the stress that something may go wrong; it builds up. When a swim was over, regardless of how it went, there was always a release. A metaphorical, and I’m sure often literal, sigh of relief, because no matter how it went, it was now over.
There was so much emotion put into every single swim, and no one saw that more than the support systems of these athletes. So when a swimmer finished a race, their support system was their to congratulate them, to mourn with them, to cry with them, to be there for them. I did my best to capture this over the course of 8 days, and in my opinion this was the footage that truly captured the spirit of the Olympic Trials.