For many American athletes aspiring to be Olympians, step one to becoming a member of Team USA is the hardest one.
“It’s like a mini-Olympics!” swimmer Elizabeth Beisel tells Us of the swim trials that started June 26 and run through July 3.
The trials, taking place this year in Omaha, Nebraska, are where swimmers such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin all have to race and qualify for their spot on Team USA. To make the team, swimmers must finish in first or second place in their respective races.
“It’s unreal,” says the 23-year-old, who qualified in the 400-meter individual medley on night one of the trials. “But honestly that’s what makes Team USA so good, because our trials are so competitive. We are heading into the Olympics with the best team in the world, and there is no doubt in my mind that we are going to be the best that we’ve ever been. I’m superexcited to see who will be in Rio and represent the U.S.”
While Beisel has been through this three times already — she first competed at trials at the age of 15 before going on to Beijing for the 2008 Games — she’s not totally confident going in.
“I get more nervous at trials because when you are there you are constantly thinking about the Olympics. ‘What if I don’t make it? I won’t even be there,’” the two-time medalist at the 2012 London Games explains. “You see so many emotions on the pool deck — you see people making their Olympics for the first time ever and you see people getting third and just missing the team. So it’s a very emotional meet, but I definitely think it’s a lot harder than the Olympics themselves.”
The emotion she got to feel on night one was the best, though.
“When you touch that wall and you see the 1 or the 2 next to your name, that’s when you know that all of the stress and all of the early morning practices and all of the nervousness have been worth it,” she says. “It all paid off and it’s just a huge relief. You can finally start thinking about the next step in your process and that would be the Olympic Games, and you sort of have the peace of mind that you can swim the rest of the trials knowing that you’re going to the Olympics and there’s no better feeling than that.”
By qualifying, Beisel can start thinking about gold, but she says that’s not what it’s all about.
“Swimming has also given me things that are much bigger than a gold medal and much bigger than that feeling. I have best friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life, and I’ve learned lessons that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life,” she says. “No matter what, swimming has given me amazing things, but obviously I would like to end the day with a gold medal.”
One thing that could help her win gold: the drink that’s helped her grow big and strong up since childhood.
“My mom was always telling me, ‘You need to drink more milk! It will help grow your bones; it will help give you muscles.’ She knew drinking milk was an important part of my diet and she was very encouraging for me to drink it, and now I still literally have a glass of milk with every single meal,” she says of the powerhouse drink that boasts nine essential nutrients, including protein in every serving.
“We have a refrigerator that is right outside of our pool, right before we go into the locker room, and it’s filled with just cartons of milk,” she explains. “After every single practice, basically all of us take one and drink it immediately.”
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The Rio Olympics begin August 5 and will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. The Rio Paralympics begin September 7 and will be streamed live on TeamUSA.org.
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