Swimming's trials and tribulations
Palo Alto High grad Tosky among the many competing for a precious few berths on U.S. Olympic Team
The word is out. Michael Phelps is entered in seven events at next week's U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, setting himself up for a possible 10 medals at the London Games this summer.
Palo Alto High grad Jasmine Tosky, however, has qualified in 12 events for the Trials, which will be held in Omaha, Neb. No swimmer in America, not even Phelps, can match that.
Tosky, however, will not swim in that many events. In fact, she's entered in only six — the 100 and 200 free, 100 and 200 fly, and 200 and 400 IM — and quite possibly will drop a few races in order to have the best chance of making the U.S. Olympic team.
While the 27-year-old Phelps will be competing in his final U.S. Trials, this is the first for the 18-year-old Tosky.
"Truly, I am a little nervous because I don't know what to expect," said Tosky, who will swim her first race on Monday. "This will be my first ever Olympic Trials and I definitely do feel like a rookie, but an experienced one. Past international meets have helped prepare me for Trials. I am still trying to gain experience but I'm also trying to treat this meet like any other meet and just race."
While Tosky has competed in the FINA World Championships, the U.S. National Championships and various international meets that have taken her around the world, the U.S. Olympic Trials in another story. Only the top two individuals in each race qualify for the Summer Games, along with a handful of third- and fourth-place swimmers to help fill out the freestyle relay teams.
Nonetheless, the pressure is intense and the schedule potentially grueling for athletes with multiple swims who face prelims, semifinals and maybe finals in each race.
"I have been through some crazy scheduled meets before but none like Trials, where the meet is eight days long. I'm not scared of my schedule, no matter how many events I swim or don't swim. But, what's very different for me compared to other meets is the concept of semifinals. The additional swims will definitely impact me, but I'll handle it.
Tosky has proven herself at every level, thus far. She set a national public schools record of 51.92 in the 100 fly her junior year while earning national co-swimmer of the year honors from Swimming World magazine. She never lost an individual race at the Central Coast Section championships, going 8-0 in her prep career and lost only once only once in four years in dual meets.
In her last tuneup before the U.S. Trials, Tosky held her own against veteran Olympians at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix. In the 100-meter fly, Tosky's first race at the Trials, she finished third behind Olympians Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin.
"It was a great experience getting to race the top swimmers in the nation, even though I finished a body length behind Dana," Tosky said. "Just racing her gave me an idea of how the 100 fly at Trials will be like and what I'll be facing."
Tosky came back at the Santa Clara meet to win the 200 fly, beating 2008 Olympic Trials winner (and Stanford grad) Elaine Breeden. Tony Batis, who coaches Tosky at Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics, believes the 200 fly will provide her with an opportunity to make the U.S. Team. The 200 free is Tosky's other best bet, given the fact the top four swimmers likely will make up the 800 free relay team.
Tosky is the No. 7 seed in the 200 free (1:58.15), No. 8 in the 200 IM (2:13.02) and No. 8 in the 200 fly (2:09.28).
"I honestly don't know what's my best event, but fly is one of my stronger strokes," Tosky said. "I am still learning how to pace my 200 fly and so my swim at Santa Clara was a good indicator on what I need to work on and think about when I race the event."
Tosky could swim up to 17 times if she makes the finals in all six of her events (the 400 IM has only prelims and finals). Her heaviest days could be Monday, Wednesday and Thursday with the possibility of four races each day.
"The number of events doesn't exactly faze me as long as I take good care of my body before and especially after races," she said. "That said, I don't think the amount of events will work against me. I just have to be smart about my swims and prioritize some events.
"The meet will probably be more taxing mentally than physically because of how long the competition is and how many races I will be swimming. I'm prepared as best as I can be at this point in swimming. I don't doubt that this meet will have ups and downs, obstacles and more, but I'll tackle everything the best I can."
In addition to swimming, Tosky likely will be spectating and cheering. PASA will have 14 entrants — Rachael Acker, Alicia Grima, Ally Howe, Dana Kirk, Jeremie Dezwirek, Egan Gans, Adam Hinshaw, Bernard Johnson, Andrew Liang, Matt Murray, Curtis Ogren, Byron Sanborn and Nick Trowbridge — plus three former team members — Ben Hinshaw, Liv Jensen and Maddy Schaefer.
"I'm proud to know that we have a large group going to Trials, and I think it's beneficial to have a group that large," Tosky said. "The more people, the more ecstatic we can be traveling to Omaha together."
While Tosky four years of swimming at USC to look forward to and most likely more U.S. Trials in her future, this is an opportunity to be seized and Tosky is prepared.
"I've been to both SCM (short course meters) and LCM (long course meters) World Champs and my time there will most definitely help me with experiencing Trials," she said. "I remember the arenas for both World Champs being enormous and spacious. I've swum under the huge octagon that will also be at Trials. Also, I've been going through the motions of going to the ready room and preparing for my race. I think I have a good idea of what the competition complex and structure will be like."
Then again, the competition will be fierce and the lanes will be filled with Olympians and Olympic medalists, some competing for the final time. Thus, Tosky has to be realistic about her chances and can't discount the value of just being there. It is, after all, an experience of a lifetime.
"Just going to the meet will give me that much more experience," she said.. "My main focus is to enjoy it. This will be some sort of stepping stone for me, whether big or small, for my future in swimming."