Rachel Bootsma's ambition is hitting fast lane

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2012 - 11:24 PM

 The Eden Prairie swimmer's medal quest has arrived in London, where all her work will reach a swift conclusion.

view larger photos

  

LONDON - After being in the city for nearly a week, Rachel Bootsma will get her star turn in London beginning Sunday. The Eden Prairie teen will swim in the preliminaries -- and, if all goes well, the semifinals -- of the women's 100-meter backstroke at the Olympic Games.

The offstage time seems to be passing all too swiftly, even for a girl who lives to go fast. Bootsma, 18, sweated and sacrificed for four years to get to this moment. And it will flash by in less than three minutes of swimming at most, spread over two days in the Aquatic Center in London's Olympic Park.

That is the cruel calculus faced by every Olympic athlete. After a training session Saturday morning, Bootsma said she never has been so excited for a race. At the same time, she does not want this slice of her life to end, even though she will begin a new adventure at college in only a few weeks.

Since winning her spot on the team with a second-place finish in last month's Olympic trials, Bootsma has been tutored by her future college coach, Teri McKeever, and mentored by longtime idol Natalie Coughlin. She has trained at Olympic team camps in Tennessee and France with many of the world's best swimmers. Strangers have asked her for autographs, and even her mother and grandmother were approached by fans at the trials in Omaha.

With the fourth-fastest time in the world this year, Bootsma is in the hunt to win a medal. Already, she has been overwhelmed by the emotions that come with making the Olympic team. It was one thing to dream about it for much of her lifetime. It is quite another to find that living it surpasses everything she imagined it might be.

"I never expected anything like this," said Bootsma, who set a personal best of 59.10 seconds in the semifinals at the trials. "I never expected the Olympics would be so cool and so amazing. I've never felt this way before, to be so excited to race and so excited to be here.

"But it's kind of bittersweet. It already feels like it's almost over, because once the meet starts, every day gets you closer to the end. I just want to soak it all up."

Plenty of support

Brief as it might seem, Bootsma's Olympic experience will be shared by a posse of friends and relatives. Her parents, Rob and Jan, and sister, Katie, arrived in London on Saturday afternoon. Back home, the mother of an Aquajets teammate has about 40 people coming to her home for a viewing party, and Jan Bootsma -- who works in the Minnetonka school district -- said little work will be done there during the 59 seconds it takes Rachel to swim each of her races.

Bootsma's coach, Kate Lundsten, got a happy surprise. She expected to watch the races from the stands, but USA Swimming arranged for her to be on the pool deck when Bootsma swims. That's a particularly sweet reward for a woman who has coached her since Bootsma was 10 years old, guiding the group effort of building an Olympian.

"I knew she had the ability to do it, but it's still hard to believe," Lundsten said. "When you think of the math, of how many swimmers there are in the United States and how few make the Olympic team, I just thought, 'Wow. She did it.' So many people put in so much time and effort, and it worked out."

Bootsma's parents almost missed the moment she was officially named to the team. That happened on short notice a couple of days after her event -- on a night when they had given away their trials tickets and made plans for a quiet dinner. They were able to get a pair, but not before 45 minutes of frantic searching.

The family has fielded loads of media requests since then. The Aquajets threw Bootsma a party, and she has been invited to throw out the first pitch at a Twins game in the days between her return from the Olympics and her departure for her freshman year at the University of California.

"I haven't gotten any work done since the trials, because this is all anyone wants to talk about," Jan Bootsma said. "Minnesota really loves its Olympians, which is nice for her."

Bonding with teammates

Shortly after the trials, Bootsma began her tenure with the Olympic team. At the camps, she has made new friends and grown closer to previous ones. She has gotten guidance from McKeever, who will coach the American women at the Olympics before coaching Bootsma at Cal this fall.

Bootsma said she was extremely nervous when the camps began. McKeever's emphasis on team bonding, and the older swimmers' assistance and friendship, helped her work through that. She now is feeling her usual anxiousness to race, and she said she feels strong and well-prepared.

Bootsma's friend Missy Franklin is among the favorites in the 100 back. She won the trials and swam 58.85 in the semifinals, the world's fastest time this year. Other top swimmers include Zhao Jing of China, the 2011 world champion; Anastasia Zueva, the Russian national champion whose 58.97 is just behind Franklin's mark; and Japan's Aya Terakawa, third in the world this year with a time of 59.08.

Friday night, as most American athletes enjoyed the Opening Ceremony from the floor of Olympic Stadium, Bootsma watched it on TV with other swimmers in the athletes' village. She chose not to participate because she needed to rest for her races.

But in watching her fellow Olympians prepare for their parade, she felt immensely proud -- if a little astonished -- to be among them.

"The Opening Ceremonies were going on right outside my room," she said. "I can't even describe what that was like to see. I've never experienced anything like this, and it gave me goose bumps.

"It's all been completely amazing, more than I expected it to be. It's a life-changing experience."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 106 FINAL
Boston 101
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
Indiana 94
Portland 110 FINAL
Sacramento 99
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Orlando 83
Oklahoma City 108 FINAL
LA Lakers 101
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Denver 92
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 3 FINAL
Florida 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Anaheim 3 FINAL
Dallas 1
St. Louis 5 FINAL(SO)
Vancouver 6
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 66 FINAL
Wake Forest 69
Oregon 73 FINAL
Stanford 70
Purdue 61 FINAL
Ohio State 65
Arizona State 81 FINAL
Colorado 87
Washington St 67 FINAL
UCLA 72
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 FINAL
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Wild finish out the hockey season?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close