OMAHA, Neb. You dont often see a four-time Olympic medalist changing coaches and cities less than three months before the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.
But thats what Kara Lynn Joyce did, moving from Colorado to Charlotte in April in a last-ditch attempt to find the form and confidence that allowed her to make the previous two Olympic teams.
It was definitely one of the hardest things Ive ever done, said Joyce, who was the final addition to a SwimMAC Carolina team that placed more than 40 swimmers in these Olympic trials.
Joyce, 26, had been struggling in Colorado to regain what she had lost. A swimmer who specializes in her sports two shortest races the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events she had watched in frustration as her times climbed and her technique got sloppy.
David Marsh, the Team Elite coach for Charlotte, had recruited Joyce unsuccessfully when he coached at Auburn (she went to Georgia). This time, Joyce recruited Marsh, calling him and asking if she could come to Charlotte to join his team and make one final push for these Olympics.
Marsh told her to come on over most coaches likely would have, given Joyces four Olympic silver medals (two in 2004, two in 2008, all in relay events). But when he first saw her stroke in Charlotte, he winced.
Said Marsh: The first week Kara Lynn got here I was like, Oh, no. This does not look good. Shes way, way dull. But she has gotten sharpened up.
Joyce swam in the Charlotte UltraSwim meet in May, posting her best times in the 50 in two years. She will begin swimming in Nebraska on Friday and will compete over the meets final four days.
One of her primary competitors will be Charlotte teammate Madison Kennedy, who is also a threat in the 50 and 100.
Joyces Olympic background is far more extensive than most. Originally coached by her mother, she started swimming at age 5 when she followed two older brothers (who both eventually became college swimmers) into the pool. In 2000, she made her first Olympic trials in the 50 freestyle at age 14.
It was the first time I had been on an airplane, said Joyce, who grew up in upstate New York. By the time my event came around I had completely psyched myself out and I ended up something like 75th out of 76 people. I felt awful.
It got better, though. Joyces swimming idol was Summer Sanders. As she sat in the locker room after her event, disconsolate, her mother ran inside and told her to come out to meet somebody.
It was Sanders. Immediately, I started hysterically crying, Joyce said. She just sat down and put her arm around me. The two took a picture together. Joyce said her face was beet red and snotty, but it became one of her most treasured possessions.
Joyce made the Olympic team convincingly at age 18 and again, less convincingly, at age 22 (she needed Dara Torres to drop out of an event to get her ticket to Beijing in 2008). But the past four years, Joyce said, have been very up and down.
She tried training in California, but then the coach left and so did she. Joyce went to Colorado, but that didnt work out, either. She came to Charlotte, hoping for a rebirth.
Im definitely an underdog this time around, Joyce said, but I dont think thats a bad thing.
With family in Mooresville, a coach she knew in Marsh and a teammate in Kennedy she knew could push her, Joyce thought Charlotte would be the right fit.
The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and Im so grateful for that, she said.
Joyce has long been known for performing her best under pressure.
This time shes not among the favorites to make the squad. But she is hoping the comfort zone she has found in Charlotte will translate into one more Olympic spot.
What would it mean to me to make a third Olympic team? Joyce said. It would be more than I ever imagined I would be capable of doing in this sport. Itd be pretty incredible.