OMAHA, Neb. Kara Lynn Joyce capped a sensational meet for state swimmers Monday night at the U.S. Olympic Trials, making the American team to become the eighth and final swimmer with North Carolina connections to earn a spot on the squad.
SwimMAC Carolina coach David Marsh who had five of those eight swimmers on his Charlotte-based Team Elite, including Joyce also made the Olympic Games. He was added to the U.S. squad as an assistant coach.
Down to her last chance to make her third Olympic team, Joyce got off to a superb start in the womens 50 freestyle. She then held on for second place at the wall with a time of 24.73 seconds, behind Jessica Hardy (24.50) but in front of 45-year-old Dara Torres.
Torres fell short in her bid for a sixth Olympic team and said she didnt plan to make another attempt at age 49. She did her interviews while holding her six-year-old daughter in her arms.
That was pretty good for a 45-year-old, said Torres, who was fourth.
After the race, Joyce wasnt sure where she had placed. She squinted at the scoreboard, trying to figure out whether the number 2 or the number 7 was beside her name.
I was in Lane 2, Joyce said. I took one breath in my 50 and I took it on to the left side, so I could only see the person in Lane 1 . So when I finished I really had no idea what to expect.
Then Joyce saw her family standing and cheering and figured it out. She slapped her palm into the water in jubilation and then started to cry.
For long minutes after the race, Joyce alternated between laughter and tears. They are tears of shock and joy, Joyce said. A lot of happiness.
Her SwimMAC teammate, Madison Kennedy, finished fifth in the race. We put someone from Charlotte on the team in the 50, Kennedy said, so thats good.
The purple-haired Kennedy had bested Joyce in the 100 freestyle, making the final and finishing eighth. Joyce had to settle for 18th place and didnt advance to the top-16 semifinal. But Joyce was able to rebound in the 50.
Joyce, a 26-year-old former swimmer at Georgia, moved from Colorado to Charlotte only three months ago in a last-ditch attempt to salvage another Olympics. Her times had been poor in early 2012 meets and Marsh cringed when he first saw her stroke.
But she has always had talent Joyce already has four Olympic silver medals to her name and the two rebuilt Joyces confidence and made some technical alterations. SwimMAC Assistant coach Peter Verhoef, a former teammate of Joyces at Georgia, was also instrumental in her resurgence.
After that bad 100 I had, this was my one chance left to lay it all on the line, Joyce said. And I cant believe I did it.