Even though the college swimming and diving season has ended, a select few BYU swimmers and divers still have a lot of work ahead of them as they set their sights on the London Summer Olympics.
Diver Brandon Watson, along with swimmers Candice Smith, Kim Doroghian and Brady Wells hope to make the U.S. Olympic team in their respective sports for a chance to win a gold medal in London this summer. Olympic trials for swimming are June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb., and June 19-24 in Seattle for diving. Only the top two swimmers and divers in each event make the team, making it an incredibly competitive meet. The top swimmers and divers will travel to Great Britain to compete in the Summer Games, July 27- Aug. 12.
The individual nature of training and competing at the Olympic trials is a big change for collegiate swimmers because they are used to having teammates behind the lane cheering them on and the motivation to swim harder to help the team win.
“It really pushes you to see how much you love the sport,” Smith said, because of how individual it becomes. Luckily for each other, Doroghian, Wells and Smith still get to be together as they train and prepare for trials in June.
“We train for two to two and half hours in the morning and then two hours in the afternoon, so around four hours a day,” Smith said. “About three of that is swimming and then an hour of cross training, of either running or weight lifting. But people who actually go the Olympics … they’ll be world record holders and they’re insane. They train probably close to five hours or more a day and just work their tails off.”
At trials, Smith will be competing in the 200 back and possibly the 100 back as well. Because she is a senior, Smith’s time competing with BYU on the team is over, but she looks forward to what she can do in those events come June.
“[Before] there’s that total motivation of doing it all for your team and now my training is pretty much all on my own,” Smith said. “I have to figure out how hard I’m going to train, what I’m going to do, how prepared I’m going to be for the meet because it’s kind of up to me. I’m retiring from swimming after this competition so if I want to go out with a bang I’ve got to train hard.”
This will be Smith’s second time competing at the Olympic trials. She competed for the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and came in 50th in the nation in the 200 back. More than 100 women competed in the event so Smith was proud of her performance. That year she said there were around 900 swimmers overall competing for spots on the Olympic team. According to the USA Swimming website, 1,250 athletes are expected to compete at trials in June and July for 52 available spots.
BYU’s senior diver Brandon Watson was the only athlete from BYU’s men’s swim and dive team to compete at the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Seattle earlier in March. He placed 14th in the 1-meter and 13th in the 3-meter.
“I wish I could’ve had more of my team [at nationals] to have more of a team experience, but it was a still a good opportunity to be there and to represent BYU,” Watson said.
At the Olympic trials in June, Watson will once again compete without his team, this time looking to land a spot competing in London on the 3-meter springboard. Training for him is not all that different from what Smith and the other swimmers are doing.
“I’m going to be having two [diving] practices a day and then in between practices or after I’ll have another practice of either weight training or dry land, so pretty much three practices a day: two in the water and one outside the water,” Watson said.
It’s an interesting dynamic for these athletes to go from competing and training week after week with a team and to then be on their own, working towards something on an individual level. It is a cycle of sorts because if they do well at the Olympic Trials, they become part of a team once again, though one much larger than they are used to. Like Smith, Watson knows finding the strength and motivation to train for the Olympics comes almost completely from within oneself.
“It’s my goal. It’s my own motivation,” Watson said. “When I was diving for BYU, it was a lot for my team and how well I could do for BYU and to help our school do well. It will be a little bit more personal for me now.”
According to the USA Diving website, about 120 divers will compete for 16 spots on the U.S. Olympic Diving Team. Approximately 30 divers will compete on the 3-meter with Watson being one of them. Because so few divers compete in the event and because Watson has been diving for so many years, he knows a lot of the other divers he will come up against at the Olympic Trials, which he sees as an advantage.
“I kind of like that I know who is going to be there and how they dive,” Watson said. “I can kind of aim for a goal to know what I have to beat instead of being surprised. There’s not really any hidden elements that I think would hinder my performance.”