Georgia swimming and diving will have another representative at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Olivia Smoliga qualified for the Olympics during the United States Olympic Trials, held Tuesday in Omaha, Nebraska. Smoliga won the women’s 100-meter backstroke event, clinching her spot on the U.S. women’s swimming team.
“It’s nearly impossible to control your emotions here,” Smoliga said in a statement released by UGA. “When you have the Olympics on the line, it’s hard to stay calm. This is so cool. It’s an awesome feeling.”
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She joined elite company in the process. Smoliga’s time of 59.02 was the third-fastest time in the event’s history. The top two times belong to two of the best: Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin. Coughlin previously won the event in 58.94, while Franklin holds the fastest time at 58.33.
Franklin finished seventh in the event Tuesday, and afterwards offered praise to Smoliga and Kathleen Baker, who finished second and also qualified for the Rio Games.
“The point of this meet is to be the best of the best,” Franklin said, according to the Omaha World Herald. “The best of the best is Olivia Smoliga and Kathleen Baker, and they’re going to represent us in the best way possible, and I’m incredibly proud of them.”
Smoliga’s win gives Georgia’s swimming and diving program its third representative to qualify for American teams in the 2016 Olympics. Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland finished first and second, respectively, in the 400-meter individual medley Sunday night.
The university has athletes representing other countries, too. Swimmers Javier Acevedo, Brittany MacLean and Chantal Van Landeghem will represent Canada, while Matias Koski will swim for Finland. Gymnast Brittany Rogers is fighting for a spot on the Canadian gymnastics team.
Regardless of which country each athlete represents, Georgia fans are swelled with pride as some of their own will compete in the world’s biggest sporting event.