World Youth Olympic silver and bronze medal medallists Dylan Carter says he is elated about the opportunity to represent T&T in the 100-metre freestyle at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio Janeiro, Brazil, which takes place from August 5-21.
That’s the event for in which FINA, the world governing body for aquatics, invited him to compete.
But in a T&T Guardian interview the Olympic medal hopeful cited other strong B-time he recorded during the past year and was holding out hope FINA would issue another invitation that would allow him to compete in either the 200-metre freestyle or the 100-metre butterfly, too.
He registered one of those qualifying times at the Pan Am Games, held in Canada in 2015 and steadily climbed the world rankings through his consistency in the pool.
On July 6, the 20-year-old student who attends the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, received news that FINA had issued an invitation to him to participate in Rio.
As a direct consequence, Carter got to join Olympic bronze medallist George Bovell in the pool, where he hoped to boost this country’s medal chances.
The Fatima College past pupil recalled it was around 6 a.m. in Los Angeles when he heard his mobile handset ringing.
“I was actually asleep. I realised my coach Franz Huggins had sent me a message. He said you’re in! It was so relieving because we thought we would have heard it a couple days before. I believed it. I didn’t think I was being pranked in anyway. It certainly gave me a lot of energy and a lot of motivation. I am very happy to be representing T&T in the Rio 2016 Games. I was fairly certain for quite some time. My times were looking strong coming down to the cut-off time for qualification. After the cut-off date it was a bit of a waiting game for us as FINA worked out how many A-times and how many B-times there were,” he said.
Carter continued, “I had the fastest B-time in the world in the 100-metre freestyle and then second or third in the 200-metre (freestyle) and third in the 100-metre butterfly. I was pretty sure that I was going to get picked, but at the same time when you finally get the email, it was such a moment.
“I called my mom (who was driving) she had to pull over on the Foreshore and she was crying because it’s been such a long year for us and it was a really beautiful morning for me. I decided to take the year off school this year just to train and try to go to the Olympics. It all kind of came together. It was all worth it. These past few days, I have been training so well. I’ve been beating everybody in my training group out here, just because I am riding such a high from qualifying.”
“Relieved,” however, is not the word of choice Carter wanted to use to describe the moment he got the news. The young athlete believed his confidence was well placed and that the FINA invitation would come to secure his place on the T&T Olympic team.
“The moment it actually happens, it’s a real special moment and it is something I will hold close to me heart for the rest of my life. Speaking to my dad and my family was really a beautiful moment for me. Then I started looking forward to my future, and the next month that I have of preparation, just doing everything that I possibly can to be ready for those races in Rio.
“As soon as my mom found out, she booked a flight to LA to come and spend the next few weeks here with me. My dad is just over the moon. He’s been waiting so long for this news. I’m so glad I could make them this proud. They’re the happiest people in the world right now,” he said.
Carter continued, “2015 coming into 2016 was tough because I placed a lot of expectations on myself, this being an Olympic year. I trained really, really hard. I did a lot of things that I’ve never done before. I think beginning of the year sort of stressed me out–the meets. I was preparing so much, I felt like I should be a bit ahead of where I was, but I kept fate and I trusted my coaches and it paid off later on in the year, when I least expected it. I actually came home in January and worked with my coach Franz Huggins and my longtime age group coach and training partner Joshua Romany. We spent some months home training in Marlins swimming pool. I think that one-on-one kind of attention really helped me.”
His family and technical team weren’t the only bunch thrilled to receive news that Carter is heading to Rio.
Officials at the University of Southern California (USC) where he was still a Trojan–on the swim team–were thrilled as well. It turned out the school had a huge Olympic tradition. At every Olympic Games since 1912 to 2012 a Trojan had won a medal.
So revered is the Olympic culture at the university, the Games was flown above its swimming pool.
“My school is very excited. I got a call right away from the athletics department. We have some stuff for you said the person on the other end of the call: the Trojan Olympian gear. And they are going to put my name up on the wall in the waiting room. They were really, really excited to add a new Olympic medal hopeful to the list,” said Carter.
As he tried to contain his many emotions, between making Team TTO and realising a personal dream shared by his family and coaches, he reflected on the journey so far and added, “It has thought me to never-say-never: mental toughness. When I started swimming I was a little bit slower than all the people in my group, my age. And I was always chasing them. Eventually I surpassed them. I moved to a new group with faster people and I would surpass them, too.”