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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Katie Grimes, a two-time Olympian at 17, is U.S. swimming’s rising new star Specific Instances

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — With their 12-year-old daughter, Katie, swimming close by, Shari and Christian Grimes stood on the pool deck speaking to Sandpipers of Nevada coach Chris Barber. Christian had simply been supplied the deputy hearth chief job in Logan, Utah, and the household was contemplating shifting there from their dwelling in Las Vegas.

Barber is an efficient listener with a peaceful head, Shari says, and the Grimes household trusts him. So she didn’t take his phrases that day calmly. Barber began by saying that Katie might transfer anyplace and earn a university swimming scholarship.

“However I’m telling you proper now,” he continued, “there’s something totally different about her. And for those who go away her right here, she shall be an Olympian.”

Shortly after, Ron Aitken, the Sandpipers CEO who coaches the group’s high swimmers, heard what the household was contemplating. He reached out to make a pact: In the event that they stayed in Nevada, he promised he’d stay with Sandpipers no less than till Katie graduated highschool.

The coaches’ responses had been telling. Katie was a particular expertise with extra potential than her mother and father had realized as much as that time. So Shari and Christian listened. The household stayed put.

5 years later, Grimes is without doubt one of the most promising swimmers within the U.S. She already made Barber look prophetic, making the Olympics as a 15-year-old in 2021, and has since received three silver medals in pool occasions on the World Aquatics Championships. She’s additionally a world-class open-water swimmer and has already certified for the 2024 Paris Olympics within the 10-kilometer race after taking bronze on the 2023 world championships, making her the primary American athlete to safe a spot in France.

“Realizing that I’m already going to Paris is a little bit bit comforting, however I nonetheless actually wish to make it within the pool,” stated Grimes, now 17. “… I really feel like I nonetheless have lots to do.”

Grimes isn’t glad, her mother says. Shari believes there are occasions Katie must rejoice her accomplishments greater than she does. However that unrelenting starvation is probably what regularly propels {the teenager} to new heights.

Katie, who’s homeschooled and the youngest of seven youngsters, spent a little bit over three weeks this fall on the Olympic Coaching Heart in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Shari chaperoned for a part of the journey, and he or she stopped by the pool each from time to time throughout practices. She discovered herself getting emotional seeing how laborious her daughter and the opposite swimmers work and the way a lot they sacrifice for a shot at their targets.

“However I additionally do consider that there’s even greater greatness inside her that hasn’t damaged out but, and I’m excited for that,” Shari stated. “As a result of each time we present up someplace, that woman actually amazes us with one thing completely out of the blue that we weren’t anticipating.”

When Katie was round 3, a Sandpipers coach seen her older brother Carter on the YMCA pool. Carter had been a gymnast till he grew too tall, and he seemed good within the water, so the coach approached Shari to ask if the household can be desirous about becoming a member of the swim membership. Carter tried it and excelled, finally swimming on the College of Missouri.

From that second on, “Katie just about grew up on the pool deck,” stated Shari, who had a 12-passenger van due to her large household and steadily drove Sandpipers swimmers to and from apply. The younger Katie was her carpool pal, sitting in her automotive seat within the again.

“She beloved being across the swimmers,” Shari stated. “It was simply type of a pure development for her to start out swimming when she obtained to that age.”

As she emerged as an elite swimmer, Grimes made it her purpose to make the 2024 Olympics in Paris. She wouldn’t have been a contender to make the Tokyo Olympics as a 14-year-old had they been held in 2020, as initially scheduled. However when these Video games obtained delayed a yr due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it modified Grimes’ outlook. Her confidence was excessive, and part of her questioned if she might make the group.

She felt finest about her 400-meter particular person medley. However when she dove in for the race the primary morning of these U.S. Olympic Trials, every little thing went incorrect.

“I simply fully ate it,” she stated.

Her nerves obtained the very best of her. She had a imaginative and prescient of how the race would go, and had she swam her seed time, she would have made the ultimate. As a substitute, she added almost 5 seconds.

Katie Ledecky and Grimes pose after qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics within the 800-meter freestyle on the U.S. Trials in June 2021. “She’s the now!” Ledecky stated of Grimes, then simply 15 years previous. (Al Bello / Getty Photographs)

After the race, Grimes lay in her Omaha resort room, sobbing. Inconsolable. All Shari might do was sit on the mattress along with her daughter and let her cry.

“It was probably the most devastated we’ve seen her,” Shari stated.

Katie was sharing a room along with her older brother Sawyer, who swam on the College of Minnesota and in addition made the Olympic Trials. He gave her a pep discuss with “not the nicest phrases,” Katie stated, laughing.

“Simply type of pulled me again up,” she stated.

It was precisely what she wanted. Over the approaching days, she demolished her finest time within the 1,500-meter freestyle, ending third and narrowly lacking the Olympic group. Katie Ledecky, whom Grimes had photos of on her wall as a child, informed the younger swimmer she was the long run. Then, in Grimes’ final occasion, she eked into the ultimate of the 800-meter freestyle, organising one of many storybook swims of the meet. Within the ultimate, she out-touched Olympic medalist Haley Anderson for second place, qualifying for the Olympics.

Grimes punched the water with pleasure when she noticed her time and placement. Ledecky, who obtained first, swam over to congratulate her, lifting her competitor’s hand into the air so the group might cheer.

“She’s the now!” Ledecky stated in her post-race interview with NBC, amending her assertion from earlier within the meet.

It was a career-altering second for Grimes, whose youth was obvious as she stood subsequent to the then-24-year-old Ledecky. Sponsorship offers would observe, and he or she was set to go midway across the globe to race on the world’s largest swim meet. Swimming, in her phrases, was “by no means going to be a foolish little factor anymore.”

“This simply obtained severe,” she thought to herself.

Making the Olympics at 15 was a momentous accomplishment in itself. Grimes, who was the youngest member of Workforce USA in Tokyo, adopted her qualification up by dropping much more time in her preliminary 800-meter freestyle swim. However she was a tad slower within the ultimate — although nonetheless quicker than her breakout swim at trials — and missed the rostrum by a second. Had she swam her prelims time, she would have gotten bronze.

Was she completely happy along with her swims, contemplating how large of an accomplishment a fourth-in-the-world end is?

“Um …” she stated, pausing for a second. “Probably not.”

Grimes rode by herself on the shuttle to the Olympic village, then sat below a tree to name her mother and father, who had been watching from the U.S. She cried as they emphasised how proud they had been of her.

“I simply felt like such a loser,” she stated.

Her fellow Workforce USA swimmers had been supportive, although, and Grimes finally got here to the belief that she had put collectively a formidable summer time.

Narrowly lacking out on the rostrum additionally gave her a carrot to chase in 2024. She stated it’s helped hold her motivated, although she estimates she nonetheless would have had loads of drive had she come away with a medal.

Although trials and the Olympics was Grimes’ highest-profile meet of 2021, they weren’t her final formative one. When she’s coping with powerful circumstances, her mother reminds her of how she dealt with that winter’s Quick Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi. Grimes contracted COVID-19 throughout the meet, forcing her to withdraw from competitors. She then needed to isolate out of the country. When her household celebrated Christmas again within the U.S., the 15-year-old was alone in quarantine.

Fellow U.S. Olympian Regan Smith remembers being touched by Grimes utilizing her further time to ship Merry Christmas texts to her teammates.

“That’s one thing I’ll always remember,” Smith stated. “A easy story like that, it tells lots about who she is.”

The 2-plus-hour race got here all the way down to a tenth of a second. It was the 2023 world championships, and Grimes reached for the end within the 10-kilometer open water occasion. Her hand, it was determined after a photograph end evaluate, touched forward of Sharon van Rouwendaal and Ana Marcela Cunha, the previous two Olympic gold medalists. She had received bronze, making her the primary official U.S. Olympian for Paris and a two-time Olympian at age 17.

That, Shari Grimes stated, was not on the household’s radar. Their daughter had amazed them as soon as once more.

The swim earned Grimes the USA Swimming Golden Goggle award for Feminine Race of the Yr. If she will qualify for the Olympics in a pool occasion at U.S. Trials in June, she’ll be the primary U.S. girl to compete in pool and open water occasions on the identical Olympics.

However even with out her world-class swimmer resume — which might develop considerably within the coming months — Grimes wouldn’t be a typical 17-year-old. Typically she jokes along with her mother and father that she was born within the incorrect decade, that she ought to’ve been born within the Eighties.

“She’s such an previous soul,” Shari stated.

Begin along with her music style. She’s presently into Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and particularly the Foo Fighters. She additionally loves traditional vehicles. She’s not fairly certain how she obtained into them, although her dad doubtless has one thing to do with it. He owns a 1977 Ford Bronco, they usually bond over their traditional automotive itch. Grimes fell in love with the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40, and he or she and her dad scoured web sites seeking the car. Her dad finally discovered one, and Katie realized the way to drive stick shift and helped change the automotive’s timing belt.

“I like studying about them and the way to make things better, and I believe they’re simply cool,” she stated.

Heading into the 2024 Olympic cycle, Grimes — who plans to swim collegiately however has not but picked a college — feels extra nervous than she did heading into 2021. She’s not going to catch anybody abruptly this time. She’s a recognized contender, and he or she’s set expectations for herself.

“It’s like, ‘Effectively, I did it once I was 15, why can’t I do it once I was 18?’” she stated. “However actually that’s simply the intrusive ideas which you can fully block out. … I’ve gone quicker and I’ve gotten higher in apply and am working actually laborious, so there’s no motive for me to be nervous. Simply belief in your coaching and belief that I’ve progressed and I’m smarter and am in a position to deal with issues higher.”

The expertise of the final Olympic cycle, in addition to her pool and open water meets since, ought to assist her navigate all of it.

“I believe she retains studying how resilient she actually is,” her mother stated. “I believe she feels she has a lot extra inside her that she desires to point out the world.”



Torri Huske enters the Olympic grind, with one purpose in thoughts for Paris

(Prime photograph of Grimes and her bronze medal from the 10-kilometer open water swim on the 2023 world championships in July: DBM / Insidefoto / Mondadori Portfolio by way of Getty Photographs)

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