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

Buffalo 17 FINAL
New England 9
Cleveland 10 FINAL
Baltimore 20
Dallas 44 FINAL
Washington 17
Indianapolis 27 FINAL
Tennessee 10
Jacksonville 17 FINAL
Houston 23
San Diego 7 FINAL
Kansas City 19
NY Jets 37 FINAL
Miami 24
Chicago 9 FINAL
Minnesota 13
Philadelphia 34 FINAL
NY Giants 26
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Tampa Bay 20
Carolina 34 FINAL
Atlanta 3
Detroit 20 FINAL
Green Bay 30
Oakland 14 FINAL
Denver 47
Arizona 17 FINAL
San Francisco 20
St. Louis 6 FINAL
Seattle 20
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Pittsburgh 27
Arizona 1/3/15 3:35 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 1/3/15 7:15 PM
Pittsburgh
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Orlando 6:30 PM
Miami
Washington 7:00 PM
Houston
Utah 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Boston
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Washington 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Montreal 6:00 PM
Carolina
Buffalo 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Toronto 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Colorado 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Nashville 7:30 PM
Chicago
NY Rangers 7:30 PM
Dallas
Los Angeles 8:00 PM
Calgary
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Arizona
Rice 12:00 PM
Texas
UMass Lowell 1:00 PM
Boston College
Johnson (TN) 5:00 PM
Char Southern
Wentworth 6:00 PM
Boston Univ
Lipscomb 6:00 PM
Chattanooga
Toledo 6:00 PM
Duke
FIU 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Quincy 6:00 PM
Illinois State
Valparaiso 6:00 PM
James Madison
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
LSU
Capital 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Maine 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
North Florida 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Fair-Dickinson 6:00 PM
Towson
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Rider 6:00 PM
Wagner
IUPUI 6:00 PM
NC Central
Southern Arkansas 6:30 PM
Louisiana Tech
Howard Payne 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
Hampton 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Mount St Marys 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Midwestern St 7:00 PM
SMU
Tennessee St 7:00 PM
TCU
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Alice Lloyd 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Nebraska Omaha 7:05 PM
Chicago State
Middle Tennessee 8:00 PM
Auburn
Portland 8:00 PM
BYU
Saint Josephs 8:00 PM
Denver
Pepperdine 8:00 PM
Loyola Marymount
San Francisco 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Stephen F Austin 9:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Santa Clara 9:00 PM
Pacific
UC Irvine 10:00 PM
Oregon
Gonzaga 10:00 PM
San Diego
Ark-Pine Bluff 10:00 PM
Stanford
Southern U 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 42 FINAL
(24) USC 45
Texas A&M 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 8:00 PM
Texas
Notre Dame 12/30/14 2:00 PM
(22) LSU
(13) Georgia 12/30/14 5:45 PM
(20) Louisville
Maryland 12/30/14 9:00 PM
Stanford
(9) Ole Miss 12/31/14 11:30 AM
(6) TCU
(21) Boise State 12/31/14 3:00 PM
(12) Arizona
(8) Miss State 12/31/14 7:00 PM
(10) Georgia Tech
(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
(17) Wisconsin
(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
(11) Kansas State 1/2/15 5:45 PM
(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
Toledo 1/4/15 8:00 PM
Arkansas State
Holy Cross 11:00 AM
Western Mich
Chattanooga 12:00 PM
South Dakota
UNC Greensboro 12:00 PM
Florida A&M
Savannah State 12:00 PM
Fordham
NJIT 12:00 PM
Clemson
St Gregorys 1:00 PM
Oral Roberts
CS-Northridge 1:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Harvard 1:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Norfolk State 1:30 PM
Stony Brook
LSU 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Princeton 2:00 PM
Hartford
New Mexico St 2:00 PM
Southern Utah
SIU-Edwardsville 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
Loyola Marymount 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
Fla Gulf Coast 3:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Lipscomb 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Miami-Ohio 3:30 PM
Davidson
Nebraska Omaha 4:00 PM
Utah Valley U
Robert Morris 5:00 PM
Marshall
UC-Riverside 5:00 PM
Brown
Kennesaw St 5:00 PM
Alabama A&M
Auburn 5:00 PM
FIU
Seattle 6:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
(21) West Virginia
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Ole Miss
Southern Miss 6:00 PM
Nicholls
Rider 6:00 PM
Delaware
Drexel 6:00 PM
Virginia
Furman 6:00 PM
Elon
UMBC 6:00 PM
Penn
UNC-Wilmington 6:00 PM
Florida Atlantic
Akron 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
Florida State
Grambling 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Evansville 6:00 PM
(7) Louisville
Western Ky 6:00 PM
Belmont
Chicago State 6:00 PM
Wright State
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Canisius
Cleveland State 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Iona 6:00 PM
East Tenn St
Ohio State 6:00 PM
(15) Maryland
Mercer 6:30 PM
Jacksonville St
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
(19) Miss State
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
(18) Oklahoma St
James Madison 7:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Texas Southern 7:00 PM
McNeese State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Hampton
Prairie View 7:00 PM
(6) Baylor
Samford 7:00 PM
Kansas
South Dakota St 7:00 PM
Northern Iowa
Howard 7:30 PM
Iowa State
Old Dominion 8:00 PM
California
Charlotte 8:00 PM
Utah
(5) Texas A&M 8:00 PM
Washington
San Diego 8:00 PM
Gonzaga
(10) Duke 8:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
UT Martin 8:00 PM
Arizona
(12) Nebraska 8:00 PM
Minnesota
Coll of Idaho 8:00 PM
Idaho State
BYU 9:00 PM
Portland
Pacific 9:00 PM
Santa Clara
St Marys-CA 9:00 PM
San Francisco

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

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