Her efforts paid off Tuesday when the Stanford sophomore earned her first international gold medal at the World University Games in Shenzhen, China by winning the 400 individual medley in a time of 4:40.79, and helping the United States pad its medal count.
"The race went pretty much the way I expected it," DiRado said. "In the freestyle I felt pretty strong coming home and I had enough left in the tank."
Stanford senior Bobby Bollier also made a trip to the awards stand, earning an 'Ag' with his second-place finish in the 200 IM. Stanford grad Kate Dwelley also won a gold medal for her participation in Team USA's record-setting 800 free relay (7:55.02) on Wednesday.
Stanford swimmers Andie Taylor, Felicia Lee and David Mosko each competed in a championship final.
Taylor finished sixth in the 400 IM in 4:46.40 and DiRado credited her for raising the level of competition.
"I train with Andie so I know that she's a really great butterflyer and she always pushes me," DiRado said. "She's a great breaststroker and she always goes out faster than me. I knew I had a lot of catching up to do in the freestyle but that's kind of been my strong part in the 400 IM so I have a lot of confidence in the last part."
DiRado hasn't quite decided her area of concentration for her academic studies at Stanford. She likes chemistry though and will maybe find a career related to it.
"Chemistry is something I am excited about," DiRado said. "I don't know how it will translate into a career. For now I'm just picking things that interest me."
So far, so good. The Santa Rosa resident has found the right formula for success in the pool and it could lead to the Olympics in London next summer.
"I'll keep training well," she said. "The training at Stanford has really worked well for me this year and I had a great time at school. So, hopefully, I will get stronger and faster and give it a run."
DiRado shrugged off a disqualification in the 200 IM the previous day to earn her first international gold medal.
DiRado, the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, recorded the world's 10th fastest time in the event (4:37.88) with her inspired swim at the U.S. Nationals meet in Avery Aquatic Center two weeks ago.
DiRado, a five-time All-American, finished in the top five of three individual events and swam on two relays for Stanford at this year's NCAA meet. She has the second-best time in school history in the 200 back and the third best in the 200 IM and 400 IM.
In China, DiRado came in with the best time from prelims and improved on that by nearly five seconds in the final. She finished 1.5 seconds faster than second place finisher Miho Takahashi of Japan.
Bollier went 1:56.06 to finish second in the men's 200 fly at the World University Games on Sunday.
"I'm happy to be here," Bollier said. "It's my second time competing but the last time I was hurt and it was very rough. This time I was healthy so I could see what I could do."
Bollier, who won a national title in the event at Stanford less than two weeks ago, improved his time by nearly 50 seconds from his USA championship time of 1:56.54.
Hungary's Laszlo Cseh won the fly with a time of 1:55.87.
"I want to be a world class swimmer and I'm hoping to improve on those final; five or 10 meters," Bollier said. "I need to finish the race strong."
On Monday, Dwelley finished fifth in the 100 free, Mosko was seventh in the 800 free and Stanford grad Elizabeth Smith finished 12th in the 200 IM with a time of 2:17.42.
Dwelley and Lee were part of the U.S. 400 free relay that finished second with a time of 3:40.19. Australia won the race in 3:40.03.
Lee was eighth in the 100 fly Wednesday with a time of 1:00.58. Mosko placed fifth in the 400 free in 3:53.80
The Americans held a slim lead after three legs of the relay before Aussie Marieke Guehrer took charge on the final leg.
Lee also finished seventh in the 50 fly, going 27.07.
Stanford junior Curtis Lovelace had the 15th-fastest time of the day (1:02.52) in the 100 breast and Cardinal sophomore Matthew Swanston, competing for Canada, was 18th in the 50 back with a time of 26.53.
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