Sports

An Olympic kind of day at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center

 

Nearly 300 kids and a handful of adults stood in line for an autograph session with three Olympic swimmers and an Olympic diver Thursday afternoon at Stanford's Avery Aquatic Center.

Fresh off their success from earning berths on the U.S. team, Stanford grad Maya DiRado and Stanford student-athletes Simone Manuel and Lia Neal were in town to meet with fans and the media.

Cardinal grad Kristian Ipsen, who will compete in the men's 3-meter springboard at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, was also on hand along with Stanford coach Greg Meehan, who serves as an assistant coach for the Olympic team.

(A video from the day can be found by clicking here.)

In all, Stanford has nine Olympic swimmers and divers. Kassidy Cook will compete on the women's 3-meter springboard, Stanford sophomore Brickelle Bro will compete in the Paralympics, incoming freshman and world record holder Katie Ledecky will compete in at least three events in the Olympics and grad Andi Murez will compete for Israel.

Ipsen and Neal each earned a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. DiRado and Manuel are making their first appearance on an Olympic team.

"Simone and I have had so many conversations over the year to help each stay focused and stay motivated," DiRado said. "We wanted to put ourselves into position to take advantage of the opportunities."

About four months out from the Olympic trials, Meehan began counting down the days, keeping track on a board in the team room. The Stanford swimmers were keenly aware of how much time they had.

"It was a message to keep grinding, to keep going," said DiRado, who is moving to Atlanta, with her husband, Rob Andrews, a former Stanford swimmer, and starting a job with McKinsey&Company, a consulting firm, as an entry level business analyst on Sept. 9.

She has yet to visit Centennial Park, the cornerstone of the 1996 Olympic Games, but she can recall former Stanford swimmers Jenny Thompson and Misty Hyman winning gold medals in 1996 and 2000.

"I was a huge Stanford fan growing up," DiRado said. "I loved watching Jenny. She was the dominant swimmer at the time. And Misty Hyman in the 200 fly; she wasn't supposed to win and then she went out and crushed it."

DiRado appears ready to repeat the success of her predecessors. She won the 400- and 200-meter individual medley races and the 200 back at the trials.

Then she, along with the other three athletes present, were patient enough to sign hundreds of autographs.

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