That is the first word that comes to mind when I think back to Lima.
I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now…. thinking about how I would describe July 31st. My feelings, the experience, the realization that I have qualified 2 spots for the Olympics…. Just wow.
This has been a moment I have been dreaming about – even day-dreaming about – for 17 years now. And it didn’t disappoint, though I am still sinking it all in!
After not qualifying with the team in 2016, I have to be honest and share that, in the back of my mind, I was always worried or nervous that I would experience the same pain, the same heartbreak again. With the ups and downs of the last few years, I can also say that the thought of it happening again past through my mind more often than I wanted it to and more often than I care to admit.
The experience the team and I had in 2016, changed me as a person and as an athlete – I would like to say that it made me better; that it made me grow. Being so close and just missing the Games is something that I don’t wish upon anyone and I wouldn’t want to go through it again!
Now, 4 years after winning gold in Toronto, I came home with two more gold medals, some amazing performances and I can finally say that I got that damn Olympic ticket I’ve been working for, for so long.
I am still processing all of the information, the excitement and the overwhelming amount of love and support I received from the people who were there with us in Lima as well as people around the world through social media. This journey has been a long one and now that it has finally come to be, my brain still can’t fully understand this truly amazing thing that happened at the Pan Am Games.
There were so many beautiful moments, but one that stands out so clear in my mind is just after the Technical Duet. Jackie and I were so calm, yet so excited. We dove into the water and just did our routine the way we knew we could. We came out of the pool knowing that we had had the swim that would put us in a good position to win gold.
After seeing the scores, our highest of the season, we immediately knew that we had done it. We started to hug, I cried (as usual haha) and we went to hug our coach who was also tearing up.
Two days later we would be fighting for gold in the free duet. This would be the one! We waited in the final call room while the swimmers before us performed. In the final minute before walking on, our coach looked us in the eyes and said “Jackie go for #2, Claudia come out of that pool an Olympian.” (😭)
July 31st. “Celebrate” was the word of the day and that is exactly what we did. After duet, the team played music, laughed, shared stories, went walking and just enjoyed what would be our final performance together.
If there’s one thing I can say about performing at this level…. “When you know, you know.” After swimming the routine thousands of times and spending 10 hours a day with the same people, you sense when something didn’t work or when it was an off performance, but on that day, we knew we had done it. We had trusted each other to do the job and just enjoyed the swim.
As athletes, as competitors, we are always striving to be better, stronger, faster and we had done just that. We trusted the process, trusted our staff and trusted each other to get us through to the end so that we could proudly sing the National Anthem while standing on top of that podium.
QUALIFIED has a nice ring to it and though it’s taken me weeks to even think about writing about my experience – I still have yet to soak up all of the excitement and the realization that the Olympics is not just a dream anymore……. it is REAL!!!
I am so proud of this team!
I am so excited! 🤩
And I can’t wait to see what this next year has in store for us. 💪🏼
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