By Emily Sampl//Contributor | Wednesday, October 24, 2018Team USA recently wrapped up competition at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, bringing home 18 medals from the competition. USA Swimming sent a small contingent of eight athletes to the swimming portion and collected one medal, a bronze in the women’s 100m backstroke by University of Alabama freshman Rhyan White.
It marked the first international meet for the eight swimmers, and gave them an opportunity to don the stars and stripes for the first time in their swimming careers.
“This meet was a great opportunity for kids to compete at the international level, and prepare for higher level competitions with USA Swimming,” said National Junior Team Director Mitch Dalton. “Our main goal was to just get a team there and have them see a bigger world than they’ve been to before – to expose them to international swimming and have a positive experience.”
Along with their first dip in international-level competition, the athletes also got to experience a taste of life as an Olympic athlete while staying in the Olympic village.
“The Youth Olympic Games is an awesome opportunity for younger athletes to get a sneak peek at what it’s like to be at an Olympic Games,” Dalton added. “It’s especially important for the athletes to learn how to manage village life – rooming with other people, dealing with limited and different food options, sharing bathrooms – it’s a very different experience than the hotels we have at USA Swimming trips. Buenos Aires did an amazing job, everything from transportation to venues to the people – it was awesome, first class.”
With the meet coming early in the season and at a time when many swimmers are just getting back into shape, Dalton left it up to the swimmers and their home coaches to determine how they wanted to approach the meet.
“At USA Swimming, we want to make sure any opportunities we’re giving the athletes are fitting in with the plan they’ve come up with their coaches,” Dalton said. “We let the athletes treat the meet how they wanted. We knew it would be an early season meet, and it was an opportunity to race at a high level early in the season. We saw some really fast swims from kids who were under heavy training.”
While USA Swimming traditionally sends a larger roster of athletes to most international meets, the smaller group gave the swimmers the opportunity to really get to know each other and support each other, something that isn’t always possible with a larger team.
“There’s a very fun aspect that comes with the bigger rosters, but you don’t always get to connect with everyone on the roster,” Dalton said. “This trip, they could really connect with each other in a smaller group, and now as they advance through the sport, hopefully their connections with each other will grow as they continue to support each other through their careers.”